The Americas Blog

El Blog de las Americas

The Americas Blog seeks to present a more accurate perspective on economic and political developments in the Western Hemisphere than is often presented in the United States. It will provide information that is often ignored, buried, and sometimes misreported in the major U.S. media.

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The June 4 governor’s election in the State of Mexico (or Edomex), the most populous state in Mexico, came close to ending the Partido Revolucionario Institucional’s (PRI) nearly nine-decade-long control over the state.

Throughout the campaign and its aftermath, PRI’s illegal election interference, or what the New York Times called “business as usual in the State of Mexico,” 1 was widely documented by independent observers. Even as PRI-controlled election monitors proclaimed their candidate the victor with a slim plurality, evidence of extensive irregularities undermined the results’ legitimacy. The absence of a clear mandate produced a scandal and strengthened the prospects of the leading opposition party ahead of the 2018 presidential elections.

It wasn’t the Partido de Acción Nacional (PAN), the right-wing party that had interrupted the PRI’s grip on the presidency with the elections of Vicente Fox in 2000 and Felipe Calderón in 2006, that threatened PRI’s stranglehold on the state. Rather, a new political force, the Movimiento Regeneración Nacional (Morena), emerged as the most credible challenger to the PRI.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the left-wing perennial presidential candidate, formed Morena in 2011 and formally organized it as a political party in early 2014. López Obrador (popularly known as “AMLO”) was previously a member of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (or PRD), and stood as that party’s candidate in two contested and ultimately unsuccessful presidential bids in 2006 and 2012, in which many believe that fraud played a decisive role. While the PRD emerged from the PRI’s left faction in the 1980s, the party recently turned to coalitions with the conservative PAN. Meanwhile, some of the PRD’s leadership has been linked to corruption scandals since at least the early 2000s. 2

In the 2017 elections, the State of Mexico Electoral Institute (IEEM) reported a significant increase in voter turnout to over 6 million people, or 53 percent of eligible voters. In 2011, the PRI candidate won overwhelmingly, with a 46 percent turnout, the year before the PAN’s 12-year interruption of PRI presidencies was halted. In 2005, a year before the PAN again won the presidency in a bitterly contested campaign against AMLO and the PRD, current president Enrique Peña Nieto won the governorship of Edomex with only 42 percent voter participation. 3

The IEEM’s initial official estimates failed to reach their own May 3 protocol of 1,800 voting booths tabulated, with only 1,347 included in the rapid count following the election. 4 Still, early estimates from the Preliminary Election Results Program (PREP) excited Morena supporters with a slim advantage for their candidate, Delfina Gómez, until the final tally days later declared the PRI’s Alfredo del Mazo Maza governor-elect with 33.69 percent, over Gómez’s 30.91 percent. 5 Morena supporters also noted that the National Electoral Institute (INE) had installed voting booths at a much slower pace than required by law, and that while the INE had promised that voting would begin at 8 a.m. and carry on until 6 p.m., by 9:50 a.m. officials had only installed 57 percent of Edomex voting booths. 6

Del Mazo may be the officially declared victor (with extensive irregularities, as we’ll see below) but Gómez and Morena’s rapid surge in the official vote count made it the closest governor’s election in Edomex on record. The incumbent PRI governor won with 61 percent of the vote in 2011, and the currently deeply unpopular President Enrique Peña Nieto, who survived credible allegations of corruption during his presidential campaign, had managed to officially win close to 50 percent of votes back in 2005.

IEEM’s figures depict a margin of about 170,000 votes in Del Mazo’s favor. With no comparable figures available prior to 1993, when “Mexico was still considered more or less a one-party state,” 7 it is likely that the Edomex elections were the most competitive in the state’s history. 8

Indeed, Animal Político describes the Edomex 2017 results as a “collapse” for the PRI, and “unprecedented growth” for the infant party, Morena. 9 In raw vote numbers, the PRI lost a million supporters, about a third of its 3 million vote total in 2011. When taken as a proportion of the election results, however, Del Mazo’s campaign results represent an abject failure. The 2011 PRI candidate had won with 62 percent of the vote, whereas Del Mazo managed 33 percent. 10

Fraud: Accusations and Evidence

Accusations of fraud marred the Edomex elections well before a single vote was cast. For example, the Washington Post reported that eligible voters were offered cash discounts from the PRI at local shops if they traded in their voting credentials and refrained from voting, a clear violation of Mexican election laws. 11 The Argentine outlet Segundo Enfoque and others reported that some voters traded in their electoral credentials for debit cards that would receive post-election deposits of 2,000 Mexican pesos, or about $100. 12

Reuters quoted PRI-supporter Maria de los Remedios Gonzales’ cynical logic in accepting PRI pamphlets that promised cash payouts should Del Mazo win: “Better the devil you know …. At the end of the day, it’s our money, and they give us a bit back.” 13 On the day of the election, independent observers reported that voters received burner phones to take into the ballot box and provide photographic evidence that they had voted for Del Mazo or other PRI candidates as part of a quid pro quo. 14

The New York Times is probably justified in identifying this kind of overt interference in the democratic process as “usual,” but as pre-election polls showed a tightening race, the tainted atmosphere of electoral sleight of hand took on a more blunt, violent air. For example, authorities have yet to identify who left the dozens of pigs’ heads stacked menacingly in front of the Morena state headquarters on June 3. 15 Pigs’ heads were also left in front of two other Morena offices in Tlalnepantla and Ixtapaluca-Chalco. 16

International and local observers documented a pattern of violent intimidation toward opponents to PRI rule. Alex Main, Senior Associate for International Policy at CEPR, participated in an independent investigation of the election proceedings in early June. Commenting at a joint press conference in Toluca, Main relayed that an observer from the civil society organization #NiUnFraudeMás, Soledad, had received threats: after an anonymous phone caller asked whether Soledad supported Morena, the unidentified person threatened her and her family with murder.

Main also received reports of intimidation of independent observers in the zone of Ahuizotla. Observers reported illegal busing of voters and, after taking photos of apparent PRI operatives, received death threats from an armed man near voting booth 2866. 17

Most alarming were disappearances of Morena party members. The PRI spokesman for Edomex and other officials confirmed at least two disappearances, one of a Morena official in Metepec, and another of the Morena coordinator in Atlacomulco, the area where Peña Nieto began his rise within the PRI, reportedly as part of the infamous Grupo Atlacomulco. 18 Peña Nieto had established local alliances with his uncle and former Edomex governor Arturo Montiel of Grupo Atlacomulco, before he became governor of Edomex and later head of state. The president, who is distantly related to his party’s Edomex candidate, currently boasts an approval rating of just 12 percent. 19

The spokesman assured the public: “Since the morning, I have been attentive … working with both the State Security Commission and the office of the Attorney General.” But the Peña Nieto administration’s documented record of near-universal impunity in the many disappearances of journalists, political figures, and others raises considerable doubt as to the successful resolution of these kidnappings. 20 Cristina “N.” was witness to the disappearance of her husband Óscar Juárez Cárdenez, the Atlacomulco representative. She saw two cars arrive from her balcony and later found her disappeared husband’s T-shirt on the street, tattered and blood stained. 21 Mexico City-based La Jornada also reported that state police forcibly removed about 20 Morena party members from their hotel rooms in Toluca on the discredited pretext of a bomb threat. 22

Much of Main and other observers’ testimony related to the municipality of Naucalpán, particularly the town of Chimalpa, where they witnessed physical threats and also non-violent obstacles and impediments to a fair election. The PRI’s ground operations included a system by which voters would receive their benefit for voting PRI under the guise of breakfast or a friendly gathering at nearby houses.

Christy Thornton, another election observer and professor of Latin American history at Rowan University, defined the so-called “casa amiga” program as a fraud “where PRI operatives coordinate various kinds of voter coercion, from outright buying of votes to incentivizing individuals to bring five or ten others with them to the polls.” 23 As an example of this systematic bribery, the observers witnessed eligible voters, “all women of very humble social condition,” who were apparently returning from voting booth 3002 to queue outside of a nearby house with a known PRI operative inside.

While illegal, the casa amiga and desayuno (breakfast) vote buying programs reflect the PRI’s broader campaign strategy of targeted patronage to affect election outcomes. Del Mazo campaigned on the “pink salary,” a promise to distribute over $100 every other month to more than 500,000 poor women. Del Mazo’s campaign manager framed the policy as “allowing the man to have the opportunity to leave to work to produce an income for his family.” In one of Del Mazo’s antiseptic campaign ads, the silver-haired scion quipped “they prepare breakfast … they deserve a dream.” 24

Spain’s El País reported pink cards were distributed as PRI “campaign objects/materials” before June 4 around the State of Mexico, and reminded readers of present PRI governor Ávila’s 2011 campaign “trick” of promising pharmaceutical aid, in the form of a green card, in return for a PRI vote. Noemí Romero, who lives in Edomex, said that when she and her mother went to the pharmacy after the 2011 election ended overwhelmingly in Ávila’s favor, the clerk laughed and asked why they would believe PRI’s promises. “We wanted the ground to swallow us up in shame. This pink salary, it is the same as the green card, it’s the same, they only changed the color.” 25 In 2017, however, #NiUnFraudeMás documented payouts in the form of pink debit cards.

While it is not illegal to promise social benefits for everyone as part of an election campaign pledge, the recent experience in Edomex included widespread illegal vote-buying techniques, as well as harassment, and even forced disappearances that appear to be campaign-related.

According to the advocacy campaign for electoral transparency, #NiUnFraudeMás, the seven most common forms of interference were:

“pressure on state and municipal government workers, transport workers, health workers, teachers and police; psychological terrorism; busing, voter coercion and vote-buying; violation of the campaign ban just prior to election day; exceeding campaign spending limits; inconsistencies between the collection of election day minutes in the official record, the rapid count, PREP and the district count; and deficiencies in electoral organization and training.”

Finally, the third report from #NiUnFraudeMás has links to video evidence of police intimidation and coercion on behalf of the PRI; police violence against journalist Alan García of the newspaper El Gráfico; 26 an attack against Morena representative Rodrigo Abdalá in Atlacomulco; and the intimidation of independent observers.

There were also less violent forms of interference: photo evidence of the pink salary system in quid pro quo form; PRI propaganda and misinformation on public transport; an apparent admission of illegal busing from multiple PRI operators; 27 illegal PRI counts of voters in front of voting booth 2266; 28 arbitrary elimination of votes in Toluca; 29 and insufficient ballots in densely populated areas.

There was an especially high presence of reported irregularities in the municipalities of Naucalpán and Ecatepec, where the rate of femicides sets another poor record. 30 The two zones tied with 39 reported electoral irregularities of a total of 601 in the 125 municipalities overall.

In sum, #NiUnFraudeMás described the PRI’s overall electoral blueprint as “a strategy of psychological warfare” and to create “fear [among] the militants and representatives of Morena and [within] the entire society.” 31

In mobilization against the thoroughly documented irregularities and fraud, the organization led by artists, academics, and activists called for a full recount, and, if necessary, a complete repeat of the gubernatorial election itself. #NiUnFraudeMás members also demanded the resignation of the PRI-controlled election counselors of the IEEM and the INE, among other officials. 32

#NiUnFraudeMás’s most recent press bulletin shores up the constitutional bonafides needed to demand both a “totally autonomous and independent citizen recount,” as well as “the nullification of the eventual ‘triumph’ of Alfredo del Mazo,” citing the Mexican constitution to bolster its case. Its July 10 press release notes that Article 6 affords Mexican citizens the right to “free access to diverse and timely information,” and Article 41 guarantees the right to “free, authentic and periodic elections.” 33

Institutional Investigations and Compromises

La Fiscalía Especializada Para la Atención de Delitos Electorales (FEPADE), the federal agency responsible for investigating voter fraud, reported evidence of interference before June 4. The agency at first refrained from detaining drivers of illegal busing operations, intercepted en route from the Plaza Américas in Naucalpán to Nezahualcóyotl, but without passengers, on a possible practice run. FEPADE promised an investigation. 34

Multiple reports emerged of an election day mobilization that included 3,500 PRI-voting bus riders on 70 buses, and that FEPADE arrested two bus drivers involved. Two days after the election, FEPADE announced that there were at least 192 outstanding arrest warrants, primarily for alleged vote purchasing and reported that most of the complaints filed related to “fraud in the vote counting.” 35 For example, one video uploaded to social media uncovered an instance of an IEEM official apparently inflating the PRI vote tally through officials inaccurately transmitting vote totals from one to another, verbally changing the results. 36

Both Morena and the PRD lodged an official complaint with the INE, arguing against the elections’ legitimacy because Del Mazo and the PRI exceeded spending limits by as much as 40 percent. 37 Horacio Duarte, a representative of Morena, said that someone close to Del Mazo and the PRI anonymously submitted folders with financial papers that purport to document the excess expenditure. The Morena representative also claimed that the evidence was derived from the “internal accounting system” of the PRI. 38

While the INE hastily refused a full recount, they did conduct a partial one, potentially to save face. Some of the results strongly suggest both fraud and a cover-up. John Ackerman, a researcher and law professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, observed a recount in Naucalpán de Juaréz, at voting booth 2836 in which, he said, Del Mazo’s vote total fell from 640 to 81 votes. Ackerman commented in a tweet with photographic evidence: “no wonder they don’t want to open the other ballots!” 39 During the vote count, the INE president of district 32 attempted to remove Ackerman from the premises with the use of police, while defending the democratic legitimacy of the process: “There are no delinquents here,” he said. 40

A week after the scandal-ridden election, AMLO formally appealed to the Tribunal Electoral del Estado de México (TEEM) with 45 legal challenges, one for each district in Edomex. He called for the Tribunal to “clean up the election” and declare Delfina Gómez the next governor of Edomex.

AMLO further accused the PRI of buying votes and filling ballot boxes “with an operation led and directed by Enrique Peña Nieto,” who is also the distant cousin of Del Mazo. 41 (Del Mazo’s family lineage is a legacy in Edomex, where both his father and grandfather served as PRI governors.)

AMLO went on to insist that, if the Tribunal rejects Morena’s challenges, the party would appeal to the national Electoral Tribunal. His social media speech averred: México “is a democratic republic, not a monarchy.” 42

According to the IEEM, Morena was not the only political party to challenge the results of the historically competitive June 4 election. The conservative PAN party also submitted appeals in 36 of the 45 electoral districts at play in Edomex, and the PRD challenged the results in 39 districts. All three parties accuse the PRI of federal interference and election fraud, citing irregularities in the district counts and in voter registration. In spite of IEEM’s June 9 announcement of victory for the PRI, the bellwether election may not be resolved until TEEM’s self-imposed deadline of August 16. 43

AMLO emphasized that if the TEEM rules in favor of the status quo, Morena will still appeal before the Mexican federal tribunal to annul the elections. AMLO attempted this level of legal appeal in the aftermath of the 2006 presidential race, and urged his supporters to occupy Mexico City’s Zócalo plaza for two months, but the tribunal ruled unanimously against the then PRD candidate despite documented irregularities. 44 Next year, Mexico again holds presidential elections, and Edomex was not the only suspicious electoral event of the year, not to speak of accusations of electoral espionage by Peña Nieto. 45

Conclusion

Just a fortnight after the election, opinion polling revealed massive discontent with the electoral authorities. In a national poll by the Mexico City newspaper Reforma, just 37 percent thought the INE to be prepared to organize the 2018 presidential elections. Nearly 70 percent of those polled agreed there was fraud in the Edomex elections, while only 14 percent believed in the elections’ legitimacy. The same poll found 60 percent of Mexicans thought the northern state of Coahuila’s gubernatorial elections were fraudulent, while only 10 percent maintained confidence in their “cleanliness.” 46 At least there, though, electoral officials with the INE sanctioned the PRI for its excess campaign spending. 47

In Edomex 55 percent of respondents in the Reforma poll favored legal challenges to the presumed PRI victories, while fewer than 30 percent oppose the ongoing litigation and appeals.

Even if, as expected, the legal challenges fail to overturn previously announced “victories,” the PRI’s brand has suffered greatly because of the relatively competitive elections. The only party more “weakened” by the elections, according to the poll, was the PRD ? perhaps because of its counterintuitive coalition with the conservative PAN. 48 Morena, meanwhile, was the only party considered “fortified” by a plurality of those polled, 35 to 25 percent. The Edomex election generally produced the specter of further deterioration of the PRI.

The paradoxical status of Mexican-US relations further undermines the PRI’s presidential chances next year. President Trump launched his most recent campaign by calling Mexicans “rapists” and “criminals.” Even former PAN president Vicente Fox responded more forcefully than the PRI’s Peña Nieto when Trump insisted that Mexico would pay for a central plank of his campaign – the border wall. 49 The PRI’s finance minister, Luis Videgaray, resigned as the humiliated “architect” of Trump’s boorish bullying of Peña Nieto in 2016, only to return newly empowered as Peña Nieto’s foreign minister. 50

The PRI’s attempts to cozy up to the Trump administration, demonstrated through their co-sponsorship of recent meetings in Cancún and the U.S. Southern Command, or their enthusiastic embrace of rapid NAFTA renegotiation, discredited the party as subservient to the newest neighbor to the north, namely Trump. AMLO, by contrast, filed a formal complaint against the wall with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in March. 51 Finally, according to Reuters, US officials “said Mexico had asked for the negotiations to be completed by the end of the year before the Mexican presidential election heats up,” to avoid benefitting the presidential ambitions of AMLO. 52

More important than the Trump effect, the strong showing by Morena in Edomex bolsters their chances in the 2018 presidential elections. Following the Edomex election, 57 percent of Mexican voters believe the PRI will lose the 2018 elections, while only 34 percent think the embattled party will retain the presidency — which the PRI has lost only twice since its founding in 1929. 53 Indeed, another recent Reforma poll relegated the PRI to third place with only 17 percent of national voters, compared with 23 percent for the PAN and 28 percent for AMLO and Morena. 54

The PRI’s star appears to be rapidly falling. Already last year, the party lost seven of twelve gubernatorial elections. Organizations like #NiUnFraudeMás are unlikely to end their concern or suspend their investigations. The hashtag movement emphasizes Article 6 of the Electoral Code of the State of Mexico, which pledges that “citizens and political parties are co-responsible for the organization, development and monitoring of the electoral process.” 55 The historically competitive Edomex election ensures that the official certification of the results, with the TEEM expected to formally declare Del Mazo governor by August 16, does not represent the end of the struggle for electoral democracy.


1 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/06/world/americas/mexico-elections-pri-pena-nieto-lopez-obrador.html

2 http://www.upi.com/Defense-News/2004/03/23/Analysis-Corruption-in-Mexico/26871080078886/

3 http://www.animalpolitico.com/2017/06/del-mazo-mas-bajo-pri-edomex/

4 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 98-9

5 http://www.elfinanciero.com.mx/nacional/computo-distrital-le-da-el-triunfo-a-alfredo-del-mazo-en-el-edomex.html

6 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 106

7 https://www.economist.com/blogs/americasview/2011/07/state-elections-mexico

8 http://hoyentv.com/2017/06/11/ieem-reporta-participaci-n-del-53-por-ciento-de-votantes.html

http://www.animalpolitico.com/2017/06/del-mazo-mas-bajo-pri-edomex/

9 http://www.animalpolitico.com/2017/06/del-mazo-mas-bajo-pri-edomex/

10 ibid.

11 https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/an-election-in-the-heartland-of-mexicos-ruling-party-shows-where-country-may-be-headed/2017/06/01/4ea4e100-44b2-11e7-8de1-cec59a9bf4b1_story.html?utm_term=.583baf23c714

12 http://segundoenfoque.com/aumentaron-denuncias-de-fraude-en-elecciones-mexicanas-19-354585/

http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 91

13 http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-election-idUSKBN18K0GL

14 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 69

15 Cited in http://nacla.org/news/2017/06/06/cracks-fortress

16 http://www.sinembargo.mx/03-06-2017/3232283

17 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5JEvLixKTU&feature=youtu.be and Alex Main

18 http://www.quien.com/espectaculos/2012/05/07/la-profecia-de-atlacomulco-enrique-pena-nieto

https://web.archive.org/web/20090702073953/http://www.exonline.com.mx/diario/noticia/primera/politicanacional/a_la_sombra_de_atlacomulco/469962

19 Cited in https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/01/19/mexico-president-pe-nieto-more-unpopular-than-trump/96667458/

20 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/29/world/americas/veracruz-mexico-reporters-killed.html

21 http://www.milenio.com/politica/elecciones-estado-mexico/morena-desaparecidos-atlacomulco-fiscalia-investigacion-elecciones_estado_de_mexico_0_968903310.html

http://www.excelsior.com.mx/nacional/2017/06/04/1167627

22 http://www.jornada.unam.mx/ultimas/2017/06/04/denuncian-secuestro-de-dos-militantes-de-morena-en-edomex

23 http://nacla.org/news/2017/06/06/cracks-fortress

24 https://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2017/05/31/mexico/1496200285_716267.html https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGB6PLEfqrQ

25 Ibid., El País.

26 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYt4RIpy4r8&feature=youtu.be

27 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sinPa8L3eJs&feature=youtu.be

28 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHqQQvKYNl8&feature=youtu.be

29 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 111

30 http://www.proceso.com.mx/472686/ecatepec-municipio-violento-las-mujeres-mexfem

31 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/BoletinPrensa_9Junio.pdf

32 http://www.proceso.com.mx/490391/organizacion-niunfraudemas-presentara-dos-juicios-contra-la-eleccion-en-edomex

33 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/BoletinPrensa_10Julio.pdf

34 http://www.animalpolitico.com/2017/06/abren-las-casillas-asi-arranco-la-jornada-electoral-cuatro-estados-del-pais/

35 http://pausa.mx/2017/06/06/24975/

36 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Keyn6bm77dA&feature=youtu.be

37 http://aristeguinoticias.com/1106/mexico/no-solo-es-morena-pan-prd-y-pt-tambien-solicitaran-anular-eleccion-en-edomex/ http://www.prd.org.mx/portal/index.php/2-principal/3128-rebaso-del-mazo-tope-de-gastos-de-campana-por-mas-de-48-millones-de-pesos

38 http://www.animalpolitico.com/2017/06/del-mazo-gasto-campana-morena/

http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 81, 92

39 https://twitter.com/JohnMAckerman/status/872583860957196292

40 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWwCMIi8d1Y&feature=youtu.be

41 http://psn.si/morena-impugnaciones-eleccion-edomex/2017/06/

42 http://www.proceso.com.mx/490923/morena-presenta-45-impugnaciones-contra-eleccion-en-edomex

43 http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/articulo/metropoli/edomex/2017/07/13/tribunal-resolvera-en-20-dias-revocacion-de-impugnaciones

44 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/05/AR2006090500606_pf.html

https://cepr.net/press-center/press-releases/discrepancies-and-lack-of-transparency-mar-mexican-election-results

45 https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/07/trump-mexico-border-wall-pena-nieto-g20-summit

46 https://twitter.com/JohnMAckerman/status/877323657080487937

47 http://www.jornada.unam.mx/ultimas/2017/07/18/confirma-el-ine-que-el-pri-gasto-de-mas-en-coahuila

48 https://www.ft.com/content/19c33f58-3dd3-11e7-9d56-25f963e998b2?mhq5j=e2

49 http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/donald-mexicans-are-rapists-trump-goes-to-mexico-w437379

50 https://apnews.com/81553f27a3914f2b8ef2c604dda5cb2b/mexico-govt-treasury-minister-resigns-after-trump-visit

51 http://www.newsweek.com/andres-manuel-lopez-obrador-mexico-donald-trump-us-border-wall-568681

52 http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-nafta-trade-mexico-idUSKBN1A70TT

53 https://twitter.com/JohnMAckerman/status/877323657080487937

54 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-politics-idUSKBN1A80RB

55 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/BoletinPrensa_10Julio.pdf

The June 4 governor’s election in the State of Mexico (or Edomex), the most populous state in Mexico, came close to ending the Partido Revolucionario Institucional’s (PRI) nearly nine-decade-long control over the state.

Throughout the campaign and its aftermath, PRI’s illegal election interference, or what the New York Times called “business as usual in the State of Mexico,” 1 was widely documented by independent observers. Even as PRI-controlled election monitors proclaimed their candidate the victor with a slim plurality, evidence of extensive irregularities undermined the results’ legitimacy. The absence of a clear mandate produced a scandal and strengthened the prospects of the leading opposition party ahead of the 2018 presidential elections.

It wasn’t the Partido de Acción Nacional (PAN), the right-wing party that had interrupted the PRI’s grip on the presidency with the elections of Vicente Fox in 2000 and Felipe Calderón in 2006, that threatened PRI’s stranglehold on the state. Rather, a new political force, the Movimiento Regeneración Nacional (Morena), emerged as the most credible challenger to the PRI.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the left-wing perennial presidential candidate, formed Morena in 2011 and formally organized it as a political party in early 2014. López Obrador (popularly known as “AMLO”) was previously a member of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (or PRD), and stood as that party’s candidate in two contested and ultimately unsuccessful presidential bids in 2006 and 2012, in which many believe that fraud played a decisive role. While the PRD emerged from the PRI’s left faction in the 1980s, the party recently turned to coalitions with the conservative PAN. Meanwhile, some of the PRD’s leadership has been linked to corruption scandals since at least the early 2000s. 2

In the 2017 elections, the State of Mexico Electoral Institute (IEEM) reported a significant increase in voter turnout to over 6 million people, or 53 percent of eligible voters. In 2011, the PRI candidate won overwhelmingly, with a 46 percent turnout, the year before the PAN’s 12-year interruption of PRI presidencies was halted. In 2005, a year before the PAN again won the presidency in a bitterly contested campaign against AMLO and the PRD, current president Enrique Peña Nieto won the governorship of Edomex with only 42 percent voter participation. 3

The IEEM’s initial official estimates failed to reach their own May 3 protocol of 1,800 voting booths tabulated, with only 1,347 included in the rapid count following the election. 4 Still, early estimates from the Preliminary Election Results Program (PREP) excited Morena supporters with a slim advantage for their candidate, Delfina Gómez, until the final tally days later declared the PRI’s Alfredo del Mazo Maza governor-elect with 33.69 percent, over Gómez’s 30.91 percent. 5 Morena supporters also noted that the National Electoral Institute (INE) had installed voting booths at a much slower pace than required by law, and that while the INE had promised that voting would begin at 8 a.m. and carry on until 6 p.m., by 9:50 a.m. officials had only installed 57 percent of Edomex voting booths. 6

Del Mazo may be the officially declared victor (with extensive irregularities, as we’ll see below) but Gómez and Morena’s rapid surge in the official vote count made it the closest governor’s election in Edomex on record. The incumbent PRI governor won with 61 percent of the vote in 2011, and the currently deeply unpopular President Enrique Peña Nieto, who survived credible allegations of corruption during his presidential campaign, had managed to officially win close to 50 percent of votes back in 2005.

IEEM’s figures depict a margin of about 170,000 votes in Del Mazo’s favor. With no comparable figures available prior to 1993, when “Mexico was still considered more or less a one-party state,” 7 it is likely that the Edomex elections were the most competitive in the state’s history. 8

Indeed, Animal Político describes the Edomex 2017 results as a “collapse” for the PRI, and “unprecedented growth” for the infant party, Morena. 9 In raw vote numbers, the PRI lost a million supporters, about a third of its 3 million vote total in 2011. When taken as a proportion of the election results, however, Del Mazo’s campaign results represent an abject failure. The 2011 PRI candidate had won with 62 percent of the vote, whereas Del Mazo managed 33 percent. 10

Fraud: Accusations and Evidence

Accusations of fraud marred the Edomex elections well before a single vote was cast. For example, the Washington Post reported that eligible voters were offered cash discounts from the PRI at local shops if they traded in their voting credentials and refrained from voting, a clear violation of Mexican election laws. 11 The Argentine outlet Segundo Enfoque and others reported that some voters traded in their electoral credentials for debit cards that would receive post-election deposits of 2,000 Mexican pesos, or about $100. 12

Reuters quoted PRI-supporter Maria de los Remedios Gonzales’ cynical logic in accepting PRI pamphlets that promised cash payouts should Del Mazo win: “Better the devil you know …. At the end of the day, it’s our money, and they give us a bit back.” 13 On the day of the election, independent observers reported that voters received burner phones to take into the ballot box and provide photographic evidence that they had voted for Del Mazo or other PRI candidates as part of a quid pro quo. 14

The New York Times is probably justified in identifying this kind of overt interference in the democratic process as “usual,” but as pre-election polls showed a tightening race, the tainted atmosphere of electoral sleight of hand took on a more blunt, violent air. For example, authorities have yet to identify who left the dozens of pigs’ heads stacked menacingly in front of the Morena state headquarters on June 3. 15 Pigs’ heads were also left in front of two other Morena offices in Tlalnepantla and Ixtapaluca-Chalco. 16

International and local observers documented a pattern of violent intimidation toward opponents to PRI rule. Alex Main, Senior Associate for International Policy at CEPR, participated in an independent investigation of the election proceedings in early June. Commenting at a joint press conference in Toluca, Main relayed that an observer from the civil society organization #NiUnFraudeMás, Soledad, had received threats: after an anonymous phone caller asked whether Soledad supported Morena, the unidentified person threatened her and her family with murder.

Main also received reports of intimidation of independent observers in the zone of Ahuizotla. Observers reported illegal busing of voters and, after taking photos of apparent PRI operatives, received death threats from an armed man near voting booth 2866. 17

Most alarming were disappearances of Morena party members. The PRI spokesman for Edomex and other officials confirmed at least two disappearances, one of a Morena official in Metepec, and another of the Morena coordinator in Atlacomulco, the area where Peña Nieto began his rise within the PRI, reportedly as part of the infamous Grupo Atlacomulco. 18 Peña Nieto had established local alliances with his uncle and former Edomex governor Arturo Montiel of Grupo Atlacomulco, before he became governor of Edomex and later head of state. The president, who is distantly related to his party’s Edomex candidate, currently boasts an approval rating of just 12 percent. 19

The spokesman assured the public: “Since the morning, I have been attentive … working with both the State Security Commission and the office of the Attorney General.” But the Peña Nieto administration’s documented record of near-universal impunity in the many disappearances of journalists, political figures, and others raises considerable doubt as to the successful resolution of these kidnappings. 20 Cristina “N.” was witness to the disappearance of her husband Óscar Juárez Cárdenez, the Atlacomulco representative. She saw two cars arrive from her balcony and later found her disappeared husband’s T-shirt on the street, tattered and blood stained. 21 Mexico City-based La Jornada also reported that state police forcibly removed about 20 Morena party members from their hotel rooms in Toluca on the discredited pretext of a bomb threat. 22

Much of Main and other observers’ testimony related to the municipality of Naucalpán, particularly the town of Chimalpa, where they witnessed physical threats and also non-violent obstacles and impediments to a fair election. The PRI’s ground operations included a system by which voters would receive their benefit for voting PRI under the guise of breakfast or a friendly gathering at nearby houses.

Christy Thornton, another election observer and professor of Latin American history at Rowan University, defined the so-called “casa amiga” program as a fraud “where PRI operatives coordinate various kinds of voter coercion, from outright buying of votes to incentivizing individuals to bring five or ten others with them to the polls.” 23 As an example of this systematic bribery, the observers witnessed eligible voters, “all women of very humble social condition,” who were apparently returning from voting booth 3002 to queue outside of a nearby house with a known PRI operative inside.

While illegal, the casa amiga and desayuno (breakfast) vote buying programs reflect the PRI’s broader campaign strategy of targeted patronage to affect election outcomes. Del Mazo campaigned on the “pink salary,” a promise to distribute over $100 every other month to more than 500,000 poor women. Del Mazo’s campaign manager framed the policy as “allowing the man to have the opportunity to leave to work to produce an income for his family.” In one of Del Mazo’s antiseptic campaign ads, the silver-haired scion quipped “they prepare breakfast … they deserve a dream.” 24

Spain’s El País reported pink cards were distributed as PRI “campaign objects/materials” before June 4 around the State of Mexico, and reminded readers of present PRI governor Ávila’s 2011 campaign “trick” of promising pharmaceutical aid, in the form of a green card, in return for a PRI vote. Noemí Romero, who lives in Edomex, said that when she and her mother went to the pharmacy after the 2011 election ended overwhelmingly in Ávila’s favor, the clerk laughed and asked why they would believe PRI’s promises. “We wanted the ground to swallow us up in shame. This pink salary, it is the same as the green card, it’s the same, they only changed the color.” 25 In 2017, however, #NiUnFraudeMás documented payouts in the form of pink debit cards.

While it is not illegal to promise social benefits for everyone as part of an election campaign pledge, the recent experience in Edomex included widespread illegal vote-buying techniques, as well as harassment, and even forced disappearances that appear to be campaign-related.

According to the advocacy campaign for electoral transparency, #NiUnFraudeMás, the seven most common forms of interference were:

“pressure on state and municipal government workers, transport workers, health workers, teachers and police; psychological terrorism; busing, voter coercion and vote-buying; violation of the campaign ban just prior to election day; exceeding campaign spending limits; inconsistencies between the collection of election day minutes in the official record, the rapid count, PREP and the district count; and deficiencies in electoral organization and training.”

Finally, the third report from #NiUnFraudeMás has links to video evidence of police intimidation and coercion on behalf of the PRI; police violence against journalist Alan García of the newspaper El Gráfico; 26 an attack against Morena representative Rodrigo Abdalá in Atlacomulco; and the intimidation of independent observers.

There were also less violent forms of interference: photo evidence of the pink salary system in quid pro quo form; PRI propaganda and misinformation on public transport; an apparent admission of illegal busing from multiple PRI operators; 27 illegal PRI counts of voters in front of voting booth 2266; 28 arbitrary elimination of votes in Toluca; 29 and insufficient ballots in densely populated areas.

There was an especially high presence of reported irregularities in the municipalities of Naucalpán and Ecatepec, where the rate of femicides sets another poor record. 30 The two zones tied with 39 reported electoral irregularities of a total of 601 in the 125 municipalities overall.

In sum, #NiUnFraudeMás described the PRI’s overall electoral blueprint as “a strategy of psychological warfare” and to create “fear [among] the militants and representatives of Morena and [within] the entire society.” 31

In mobilization against the thoroughly documented irregularities and fraud, the organization led by artists, academics, and activists called for a full recount, and, if necessary, a complete repeat of the gubernatorial election itself. #NiUnFraudeMás members also demanded the resignation of the PRI-controlled election counselors of the IEEM and the INE, among other officials. 32

#NiUnFraudeMás’s most recent press bulletin shores up the constitutional bonafides needed to demand both a “totally autonomous and independent citizen recount,” as well as “the nullification of the eventual ‘triumph’ of Alfredo del Mazo,” citing the Mexican constitution to bolster its case. Its July 10 press release notes that Article 6 affords Mexican citizens the right to “free access to diverse and timely information,” and Article 41 guarantees the right to “free, authentic and periodic elections.” 33

Institutional Investigations and Compromises

La Fiscalía Especializada Para la Atención de Delitos Electorales (FEPADE), the federal agency responsible for investigating voter fraud, reported evidence of interference before June 4. The agency at first refrained from detaining drivers of illegal busing operations, intercepted en route from the Plaza Américas in Naucalpán to Nezahualcóyotl, but without passengers, on a possible practice run. FEPADE promised an investigation. 34

Multiple reports emerged of an election day mobilization that included 3,500 PRI-voting bus riders on 70 buses, and that FEPADE arrested two bus drivers involved. Two days after the election, FEPADE announced that there were at least 192 outstanding arrest warrants, primarily for alleged vote purchasing and reported that most of the complaints filed related to “fraud in the vote counting.” 35 For example, one video uploaded to social media uncovered an instance of an IEEM official apparently inflating the PRI vote tally through officials inaccurately transmitting vote totals from one to another, verbally changing the results. 36

Both Morena and the PRD lodged an official complaint with the INE, arguing against the elections’ legitimacy because Del Mazo and the PRI exceeded spending limits by as much as 40 percent. 37 Horacio Duarte, a representative of Morena, said that someone close to Del Mazo and the PRI anonymously submitted folders with financial papers that purport to document the excess expenditure. The Morena representative also claimed that the evidence was derived from the “internal accounting system” of the PRI. 38

While the INE hastily refused a full recount, they did conduct a partial one, potentially to save face. Some of the results strongly suggest both fraud and a cover-up. John Ackerman, a researcher and law professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, observed a recount in Naucalpán de Juaréz, at voting booth 2836 in which, he said, Del Mazo’s vote total fell from 640 to 81 votes. Ackerman commented in a tweet with photographic evidence: “no wonder they don’t want to open the other ballots!” 39 During the vote count, the INE president of district 32 attempted to remove Ackerman from the premises with the use of police, while defending the democratic legitimacy of the process: “There are no delinquents here,” he said. 40

A week after the scandal-ridden election, AMLO formally appealed to the Tribunal Electoral del Estado de México (TEEM) with 45 legal challenges, one for each district in Edomex. He called for the Tribunal to “clean up the election” and declare Delfina Gómez the next governor of Edomex.

AMLO further accused the PRI of buying votes and filling ballot boxes “with an operation led and directed by Enrique Peña Nieto,” who is also the distant cousin of Del Mazo. 41 (Del Mazo’s family lineage is a legacy in Edomex, where both his father and grandfather served as PRI governors.)

AMLO went on to insist that, if the Tribunal rejects Morena’s challenges, the party would appeal to the national Electoral Tribunal. His social media speech averred: México “is a democratic republic, not a monarchy.” 42

According to the IEEM, Morena was not the only political party to challenge the results of the historically competitive June 4 election. The conservative PAN party also submitted appeals in 36 of the 45 electoral districts at play in Edomex, and the PRD challenged the results in 39 districts. All three parties accuse the PRI of federal interference and election fraud, citing irregularities in the district counts and in voter registration. In spite of IEEM’s June 9 announcement of victory for the PRI, the bellwether election may not be resolved until TEEM’s self-imposed deadline of August 16. 43

AMLO emphasized that if the TEEM rules in favor of the status quo, Morena will still appeal before the Mexican federal tribunal to annul the elections. AMLO attempted this level of legal appeal in the aftermath of the 2006 presidential race, and urged his supporters to occupy Mexico City’s Zócalo plaza for two months, but the tribunal ruled unanimously against the then PRD candidate despite documented irregularities. 44 Next year, Mexico again holds presidential elections, and Edomex was not the only suspicious electoral event of the year, not to speak of accusations of electoral espionage by Peña Nieto. 45

Conclusion

Just a fortnight after the election, opinion polling revealed massive discontent with the electoral authorities. In a national poll by the Mexico City newspaper Reforma, just 37 percent thought the INE to be prepared to organize the 2018 presidential elections. Nearly 70 percent of those polled agreed there was fraud in the Edomex elections, while only 14 percent believed in the elections’ legitimacy. The same poll found 60 percent of Mexicans thought the northern state of Coahuila’s gubernatorial elections were fraudulent, while only 10 percent maintained confidence in their “cleanliness.” 46 At least there, though, electoral officials with the INE sanctioned the PRI for its excess campaign spending. 47

In Edomex 55 percent of respondents in the Reforma poll favored legal challenges to the presumed PRI victories, while fewer than 30 percent oppose the ongoing litigation and appeals.

Even if, as expected, the legal challenges fail to overturn previously announced “victories,” the PRI’s brand has suffered greatly because of the relatively competitive elections. The only party more “weakened” by the elections, according to the poll, was the PRD ? perhaps because of its counterintuitive coalition with the conservative PAN. 48 Morena, meanwhile, was the only party considered “fortified” by a plurality of those polled, 35 to 25 percent. The Edomex election generally produced the specter of further deterioration of the PRI.

The paradoxical status of Mexican-US relations further undermines the PRI’s presidential chances next year. President Trump launched his most recent campaign by calling Mexicans “rapists” and “criminals.” Even former PAN president Vicente Fox responded more forcefully than the PRI’s Peña Nieto when Trump insisted that Mexico would pay for a central plank of his campaign – the border wall. 49 The PRI’s finance minister, Luis Videgaray, resigned as the humiliated “architect” of Trump’s boorish bullying of Peña Nieto in 2016, only to return newly empowered as Peña Nieto’s foreign minister. 50

The PRI’s attempts to cozy up to the Trump administration, demonstrated through their co-sponsorship of recent meetings in Cancún and the U.S. Southern Command, or their enthusiastic embrace of rapid NAFTA renegotiation, discredited the party as subservient to the newest neighbor to the north, namely Trump. AMLO, by contrast, filed a formal complaint against the wall with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in March. 51 Finally, according to Reuters, US officials “said Mexico had asked for the negotiations to be completed by the end of the year before the Mexican presidential election heats up,” to avoid benefitting the presidential ambitions of AMLO. 52

More important than the Trump effect, the strong showing by Morena in Edomex bolsters their chances in the 2018 presidential elections. Following the Edomex election, 57 percent of Mexican voters believe the PRI will lose the 2018 elections, while only 34 percent think the embattled party will retain the presidency — which the PRI has lost only twice since its founding in 1929. 53 Indeed, another recent Reforma poll relegated the PRI to third place with only 17 percent of national voters, compared with 23 percent for the PAN and 28 percent for AMLO and Morena. 54

The PRI’s star appears to be rapidly falling. Already last year, the party lost seven of twelve gubernatorial elections. Organizations like #NiUnFraudeMás are unlikely to end their concern or suspend their investigations. The hashtag movement emphasizes Article 6 of the Electoral Code of the State of Mexico, which pledges that “citizens and political parties are co-responsible for the organization, development and monitoring of the electoral process.” 55 The historically competitive Edomex election ensures that the official certification of the results, with the TEEM expected to formally declare Del Mazo governor by August 16, does not represent the end of the struggle for electoral democracy.


1 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/06/world/americas/mexico-elections-pri-pena-nieto-lopez-obrador.html

2 http://www.upi.com/Defense-News/2004/03/23/Analysis-Corruption-in-Mexico/26871080078886/

3 http://www.animalpolitico.com/2017/06/del-mazo-mas-bajo-pri-edomex/

4 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 98-9

5 http://www.elfinanciero.com.mx/nacional/computo-distrital-le-da-el-triunfo-a-alfredo-del-mazo-en-el-edomex.html

6 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 106

7 https://www.economist.com/blogs/americasview/2011/07/state-elections-mexico

8 http://hoyentv.com/2017/06/11/ieem-reporta-participaci-n-del-53-por-ciento-de-votantes.html

http://www.animalpolitico.com/2017/06/del-mazo-mas-bajo-pri-edomex/

9 http://www.animalpolitico.com/2017/06/del-mazo-mas-bajo-pri-edomex/

10 ibid.

11 https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/an-election-in-the-heartland-of-mexicos-ruling-party-shows-where-country-may-be-headed/2017/06/01/4ea4e100-44b2-11e7-8de1-cec59a9bf4b1_story.html?utm_term=.583baf23c714

12 http://segundoenfoque.com/aumentaron-denuncias-de-fraude-en-elecciones-mexicanas-19-354585/

http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 91

13 http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-election-idUSKBN18K0GL

14 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 69

15 Cited in http://nacla.org/news/2017/06/06/cracks-fortress

16 http://www.sinembargo.mx/03-06-2017/3232283

17 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5JEvLixKTU&feature=youtu.be and Alex Main

18 http://www.quien.com/espectaculos/2012/05/07/la-profecia-de-atlacomulco-enrique-pena-nieto

https://web.archive.org/web/20090702073953/http://www.exonline.com.mx/diario/noticia/primera/politicanacional/a_la_sombra_de_atlacomulco/469962

19 Cited in https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/01/19/mexico-president-pe-nieto-more-unpopular-than-trump/96667458/

20 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/29/world/americas/veracruz-mexico-reporters-killed.html

21 http://www.milenio.com/politica/elecciones-estado-mexico/morena-desaparecidos-atlacomulco-fiscalia-investigacion-elecciones_estado_de_mexico_0_968903310.html

http://www.excelsior.com.mx/nacional/2017/06/04/1167627

22 http://www.jornada.unam.mx/ultimas/2017/06/04/denuncian-secuestro-de-dos-militantes-de-morena-en-edomex

23 http://nacla.org/news/2017/06/06/cracks-fortress

24 https://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2017/05/31/mexico/1496200285_716267.html https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGB6PLEfqrQ

25 Ibid., El País.

26 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYt4RIpy4r8&feature=youtu.be

27 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sinPa8L3eJs&feature=youtu.be

28 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHqQQvKYNl8&feature=youtu.be

29 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 111

30 http://www.proceso.com.mx/472686/ecatepec-municipio-violento-las-mujeres-mexfem

31 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/BoletinPrensa_9Junio.pdf

32 http://www.proceso.com.mx/490391/organizacion-niunfraudemas-presentara-dos-juicios-contra-la-eleccion-en-edomex

33 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/BoletinPrensa_10Julio.pdf

34 http://www.animalpolitico.com/2017/06/abren-las-casillas-asi-arranco-la-jornada-electoral-cuatro-estados-del-pais/

35 http://pausa.mx/2017/06/06/24975/

36 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Keyn6bm77dA&feature=youtu.be

37 http://aristeguinoticias.com/1106/mexico/no-solo-es-morena-pan-prd-y-pt-tambien-solicitaran-anular-eleccion-en-edomex/ http://www.prd.org.mx/portal/index.php/2-principal/3128-rebaso-del-mazo-tope-de-gastos-de-campana-por-mas-de-48-millones-de-pesos

38 http://www.animalpolitico.com/2017/06/del-mazo-gasto-campana-morena/

http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 81, 92

39 https://twitter.com/JohnMAckerman/status/872583860957196292

40 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWwCMIi8d1Y&feature=youtu.be

41 http://psn.si/morena-impugnaciones-eleccion-edomex/2017/06/

42 http://www.proceso.com.mx/490923/morena-presenta-45-impugnaciones-contra-eleccion-en-edomex

43 http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/articulo/metropoli/edomex/2017/07/13/tribunal-resolvera-en-20-dias-revocacion-de-impugnaciones

44 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/05/AR2006090500606_pf.html

https://cepr.net/press-center/press-releases/discrepancies-and-lack-of-transparency-mar-mexican-election-results

45 https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/07/trump-mexico-border-wall-pena-nieto-g20-summit

46 https://twitter.com/JohnMAckerman/status/877323657080487937

47 http://www.jornada.unam.mx/ultimas/2017/07/18/confirma-el-ine-que-el-pri-gasto-de-mas-en-coahuila

48 https://www.ft.com/content/19c33f58-3dd3-11e7-9d56-25f963e998b2?mhq5j=e2

49 http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/donald-mexicans-are-rapists-trump-goes-to-mexico-w437379

50 https://apnews.com/81553f27a3914f2b8ef2c604dda5cb2b/mexico-govt-treasury-minister-resigns-after-trump-visit

51 http://www.newsweek.com/andres-manuel-lopez-obrador-mexico-donald-trump-us-border-wall-568681

52 http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-nafta-trade-mexico-idUSKBN1A70TT

53 https://twitter.com/JohnMAckerman/status/877323657080487937

54 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-politics-idUSKBN1A80RB

55 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/BoletinPrensa_10Julio.pdf

In an article about Ecuador’s presidential transition that appeared in Bloomberg View, Mac Margolis claims that “Moreno takes over as Ecuador heads into its second year of recession.” However, this is not true.

Looking at quarterly GDP data for Ecuador, we see a different picture.

merling ecuador gdp 2017 07

The figure above shows seasonally adjusted real quarterly GDP, and real quarterly GDP growth. As can be seen, in the past two years Ecuador has had three quarters of positive growth. In the second and third quarters of 2016, GDP grew by 0.5 percent per quarter, or 2 percent at an annualized growth rate. The last quarter of 2016 posted quarterly growth of 1.8 percent, or over 7 percent at an annualized rate. In the first quarter of 2017, growth was slightly negative, with a quarterly GDP drop of 0.15 percent (0.6 percent at an annualized rate).

Looking at the year-over-year growth from the first quarter of 2016 to the first quarter of 2017, we find a positive growth rate of 2.6 percent.

Bloomberg’s reporting on Greece, for example, uses the standard procedures and definitions of the economics profession, including quarterly (seasonally adjusted) data and an accepted definition of recession. The standards of reporting for Ecuador should not be any different.

While it is unfortunate that the positive growth posted by Ecuadorian GDP in the last three quarters of 2016 did not extend to the first quarter of 2017, presenting Ecuador’s economy as being in a two-year recession is simply wrong.

In an article about Ecuador’s presidential transition that appeared in Bloomberg View, Mac Margolis claims that “Moreno takes over as Ecuador heads into its second year of recession.” However, this is not true.

Looking at quarterly GDP data for Ecuador, we see a different picture.

merling ecuador gdp 2017 07

The figure above shows seasonally adjusted real quarterly GDP, and real quarterly GDP growth. As can be seen, in the past two years Ecuador has had three quarters of positive growth. In the second and third quarters of 2016, GDP grew by 0.5 percent per quarter, or 2 percent at an annualized growth rate. The last quarter of 2016 posted quarterly growth of 1.8 percent, or over 7 percent at an annualized rate. In the first quarter of 2017, growth was slightly negative, with a quarterly GDP drop of 0.15 percent (0.6 percent at an annualized rate).

Looking at the year-over-year growth from the first quarter of 2016 to the first quarter of 2017, we find a positive growth rate of 2.6 percent.

Bloomberg’s reporting on Greece, for example, uses the standard procedures and definitions of the economics profession, including quarterly (seasonally adjusted) data and an accepted definition of recession. The standards of reporting for Ecuador should not be any different.

While it is unfortunate that the positive growth posted by Ecuadorian GDP in the last three quarters of 2016 did not extend to the first quarter of 2017, presenting Ecuador’s economy as being in a two-year recession is simply wrong.

In a high-level meeting Friday, the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador will discuss the region’s security with American and Mexican officials. Innocuous enough, you may think. But part of the meeting will be held on a US military base in Miami, Florida ? the headquarters of the US Southern Command, the Pentagon’s regional subsidiary that oversees American military operations throughout Central and South America as well as the Caribbean.  Under President Donald Trump, the militarization of US foreign policy is about to stretch more deeply into Central America.

Central America policymaking, hardly an open book to begin with, is set to become more secretive.  With the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America just days away, there is no official agenda of speakers or publicly listed events and no involvement of civil society organizations, and even press access is extremely limited. What we do know is US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be there, as will Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and of course, General John F. Kelly, the director of Homeland Security and the previous head of SOUTHCOM.

On Thursday, high-level government officials will be joined by a coterie of elite Central American businessmen, invited to the conference by its hosts, the US and Mexico. Trump’s budget envisions a massive cut in US economic assistance to Central America, and officials will apparently be asking the country’s most rapacious and corrupt economic actors to fill the void.

“We must secure the nation. We must protect our people,” Secretary of State Tillerson told his staff last month in a discussion around the US’ new “America First” foreign policy. “And we can only do that with economic prosperity. So it’s foreign policy projected with a strong ability to enforce the protection of our freedoms with a strong military.” By linking economic success with military operations, Tillerson telegraphed which way the foreign aid dollars will be blowing.

While much has been made of the reduction in the budgets of the State Department and USAID, don’t expect the US to simply retreat. Rather, expect the US military to deepen its involvement in the region. There may be no new official policy announcements, but the shift appears inevitable.

The turf battle between the State Department and the Pentagon over control of foreign assistance ? and more specifically “security cooperation” ? goes back to the Obama administration. Throughout 2016, diplomats fought generals over control of the billions of dollars of US security assistance allocated each year. Surprising few, the Pentagon came out on top and with Trump’s election has been bolstered further.

There are currently more than 80 unique authorizations that allow the Pentagon ? with minimal consultation with the State Department ? to deliver security assistance to foreign nations’ military, police, and paramilitary forces. With development assistance slashed, US diplomacy in the region will more often appear in uniform.

In 2016, the Pentagon distributed nearly $60 million in counterdrug assistance to Central America. Compared to the at least marginally transparent State Department budget, the labyrinthine nature of the Pentagon budget makes it next to impossible to determine precisely how much is spent in Central America ? let alone what it may look like next year. But with Secretary Kelly, the former SOUTHCOM commander, in charge, it appears that an increased Pentagon focus on Latin America is likely.

The State Department has been marginalized under President Trump, and many top posts remain vacant. With the Pentagon empowered, and with top generals populating Trump’s inner circle, it is likely the military will be leading US policy in Central America. This will be on full display this week at SOUTHCOM’s headquarters outside Miami.

With increasing security assistance coming from the opaque Pentagon budget, Congressional and public oversight of US security programs becomes next to impossible. Ahead of the conference, hundreds of Central American and international organizations wrote an open letter to express their concern over the lack of transparency and consultation associated with this apparently increasing militarization. Holding the meeting at SOUTHCOM will “send a dangerous signal” to the hemisphere, many dozens of organizations warned Secretary Tillerson in a separate letter.

Viewing development through a security prism will likely mean less focus on working with the grassroots, on community-led development, or focusing on human rights. The security forces of all three Northern Triangle countries have been implicated in corruption and human rights violations, but unlike State Department funding that is conditioned ? even if officials routinely certify state compliance with said conditions despite the situation on the ground ? the Pentagon faces far fewer restrictions.

In 2016, the State Department ? at Congress’ request ? withheld $5.1 million in Foreign Military Financing until there had been a certification that Colombia was respecting human rights. But whatever leverage State may have had was immediately undercut. The same year, the Pentagon gave their Colombian counterparts 15 times more assistance than State could have withheld, with no conditions. (State ended up certifying compliance)

With fewer resources channeled through traditional means it will be the intelligence liaisons, defense attachés, military group colonels, DEA agents, and other security officials that are empowered to lead US foreign policy. They will be the ones holding and administering the carrots.

In turn, the militarization of US foreign policy can be expected to further shift the balance of political power in Central America toward those nations’ militaries. Civilian governments are weak and fragile and, as the 2009 coup in Honduras showed, still threatened by economic and military elites.

This will likely only exacerbate the root causes of increased violence, devastation, and migration that have plagued a region where what is needed are stronger civilian governments, not ever more powerful militaries. 

Nor is the presence of Mexico a necessarily helpful part of the upcoming security conference. The US has enlisted Mexico to act on its behalf, clamping down on migrants coming from the southern border with Guatemala to block them before they reach the Rio Grande. At a previous security conference in April, the Guatemalan defense minister reportedly announced that SOUTHCOM would begin joint operations with Mexican and Guatemalan forces on its northern border in the coming months.

The Colombian government will also be present this week. As with Mexico, the Pentagon is increasingly relying on the Colombian military to train allied military and police forces throughout the region. In effect, the US it outsourcing its security cooperation to Colombia and Mexico, two countries whose militaries have been implicated in more human rights abuses than any other country’s in the hemisphere.

The militarization of US policy in Central America is more than just a dangerous signal, it is, as we’ve seen with the killing of Berta Caceres in Honduras, a real threat to environmental activists, civil society groups, peasant organizations, and others fighting for a more just and humane development model in the region.

As has been the case in Central America for decades, the economic and security interests the respective militaries will be protecting are not those of the poor and vulnerable, but rather those of the elites. On Wednesday, a who’s who of Central American businessmen will be feted by the US Chamber of Commerce and the Inter-American Development Bank; on Thursday, top officials can pay lip service to “development” and announce new private sector investments; then, on Friday, behind the gates of a US military barracks, political and military leaders will strategize on a plan to protect those investments.

It may be good for a few big corporations’ bottom lines, for the Pentagon’s relevance in the region, and for local security forces and their political patrons, but don’t expect this militarized approach to development to solve the ongoing crises in Central America.  

In a high-level meeting Friday, the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador will discuss the region’s security with American and Mexican officials. Innocuous enough, you may think. But part of the meeting will be held on a US military base in Miami, Florida ? the headquarters of the US Southern Command, the Pentagon’s regional subsidiary that oversees American military operations throughout Central and South America as well as the Caribbean.  Under President Donald Trump, the militarization of US foreign policy is about to stretch more deeply into Central America.

Central America policymaking, hardly an open book to begin with, is set to become more secretive.  With the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America just days away, there is no official agenda of speakers or publicly listed events and no involvement of civil society organizations, and even press access is extremely limited. What we do know is US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be there, as will Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and of course, General John F. Kelly, the director of Homeland Security and the previous head of SOUTHCOM.

On Thursday, high-level government officials will be joined by a coterie of elite Central American businessmen, invited to the conference by its hosts, the US and Mexico. Trump’s budget envisions a massive cut in US economic assistance to Central America, and officials will apparently be asking the country’s most rapacious and corrupt economic actors to fill the void.

“We must secure the nation. We must protect our people,” Secretary of State Tillerson told his staff last month in a discussion around the US’ new “America First” foreign policy. “And we can only do that with economic prosperity. So it’s foreign policy projected with a strong ability to enforce the protection of our freedoms with a strong military.” By linking economic success with military operations, Tillerson telegraphed which way the foreign aid dollars will be blowing.

While much has been made of the reduction in the budgets of the State Department and USAID, don’t expect the US to simply retreat. Rather, expect the US military to deepen its involvement in the region. There may be no new official policy announcements, but the shift appears inevitable.

The turf battle between the State Department and the Pentagon over control of foreign assistance ? and more specifically “security cooperation” ? goes back to the Obama administration. Throughout 2016, diplomats fought generals over control of the billions of dollars of US security assistance allocated each year. Surprising few, the Pentagon came out on top and with Trump’s election has been bolstered further.

There are currently more than 80 unique authorizations that allow the Pentagon ? with minimal consultation with the State Department ? to deliver security assistance to foreign nations’ military, police, and paramilitary forces. With development assistance slashed, US diplomacy in the region will more often appear in uniform.

In 2016, the Pentagon distributed nearly $60 million in counterdrug assistance to Central America. Compared to the at least marginally transparent State Department budget, the labyrinthine nature of the Pentagon budget makes it next to impossible to determine precisely how much is spent in Central America ? let alone what it may look like next year. But with Secretary Kelly, the former SOUTHCOM commander, in charge, it appears that an increased Pentagon focus on Latin America is likely.

The State Department has been marginalized under President Trump, and many top posts remain vacant. With the Pentagon empowered, and with top generals populating Trump’s inner circle, it is likely the military will be leading US policy in Central America. This will be on full display this week at SOUTHCOM’s headquarters outside Miami.

With increasing security assistance coming from the opaque Pentagon budget, Congressional and public oversight of US security programs becomes next to impossible. Ahead of the conference, hundreds of Central American and international organizations wrote an open letter to express their concern over the lack of transparency and consultation associated with this apparently increasing militarization. Holding the meeting at SOUTHCOM will “send a dangerous signal” to the hemisphere, many dozens of organizations warned Secretary Tillerson in a separate letter.

Viewing development through a security prism will likely mean less focus on working with the grassroots, on community-led development, or focusing on human rights. The security forces of all three Northern Triangle countries have been implicated in corruption and human rights violations, but unlike State Department funding that is conditioned ? even if officials routinely certify state compliance with said conditions despite the situation on the ground ? the Pentagon faces far fewer restrictions.

In 2016, the State Department ? at Congress’ request ? withheld $5.1 million in Foreign Military Financing until there had been a certification that Colombia was respecting human rights. But whatever leverage State may have had was immediately undercut. The same year, the Pentagon gave their Colombian counterparts 15 times more assistance than State could have withheld, with no conditions. (State ended up certifying compliance)

With fewer resources channeled through traditional means it will be the intelligence liaisons, defense attachés, military group colonels, DEA agents, and other security officials that are empowered to lead US foreign policy. They will be the ones holding and administering the carrots.

In turn, the militarization of US foreign policy can be expected to further shift the balance of political power in Central America toward those nations’ militaries. Civilian governments are weak and fragile and, as the 2009 coup in Honduras showed, still threatened by economic and military elites.

This will likely only exacerbate the root causes of increased violence, devastation, and migration that have plagued a region where what is needed are stronger civilian governments, not ever more powerful militaries. 

Nor is the presence of Mexico a necessarily helpful part of the upcoming security conference. The US has enlisted Mexico to act on its behalf, clamping down on migrants coming from the southern border with Guatemala to block them before they reach the Rio Grande. At a previous security conference in April, the Guatemalan defense minister reportedly announced that SOUTHCOM would begin joint operations with Mexican and Guatemalan forces on its northern border in the coming months.

The Colombian government will also be present this week. As with Mexico, the Pentagon is increasingly relying on the Colombian military to train allied military and police forces throughout the region. In effect, the US it outsourcing its security cooperation to Colombia and Mexico, two countries whose militaries have been implicated in more human rights abuses than any other country’s in the hemisphere.

The militarization of US policy in Central America is more than just a dangerous signal, it is, as we’ve seen with the killing of Berta Caceres in Honduras, a real threat to environmental activists, civil society groups, peasant organizations, and others fighting for a more just and humane development model in the region.

As has been the case in Central America for decades, the economic and security interests the respective militaries will be protecting are not those of the poor and vulnerable, but rather those of the elites. On Wednesday, a who’s who of Central American businessmen will be feted by the US Chamber of Commerce and the Inter-American Development Bank; on Thursday, top officials can pay lip service to “development” and announce new private sector investments; then, on Friday, behind the gates of a US military barracks, political and military leaders will strategize on a plan to protect those investments.

It may be good for a few big corporations’ bottom lines, for the Pentagon’s relevance in the region, and for local security forces and their political patrons, but don’t expect this militarized approach to development to solve the ongoing crises in Central America.  

Lenin Moreno of the governing Alianza Pais party has been declared the winner of yesterday’s presidential election in Ecuador. With more than 99 percent of the votes counted, Moreno secured 51.1 percent of valid votes compared to his competitor, banker Guillermo Lasso, who received 48.9 percent.

Soon after polls closed yesterday Lasso declared his victory, and began the celebrations, based on the results of an exit poll. Hours later, as official results began to show a different result, angry Lasso supporters took to the streets alleging fraud. Exit polls, which are often wrong by much more than the margin of this election, are a non-credible basis for challenging an electoral result, but those weren’t the only numbers that raised the ire of Ecuador’s opposition last night.

As official results from Ecuador’s electoral council were being posted online, the NGO Participacion Ciudadana (PC) held a press conference and announced that their “quick count” showed a “technical tie” between the two candidates. The difference was just 0.6 percentage points, the NGO said, and it refused to disclose who was in the lead. The statement added fuel to the fire and emboldened those eager to discredit the official results.

English-language media has been quick to cite the “technical tie” finding, but few seem to have tried to understand it. The Miami Herald, Washington Post, Associated Press and others all cited the “respected” NGO and its determination of a “technical tie” in their coverage of the election results, for example. So, what did PC actually find and what was it based on?

As they have in prior elections, PC conducted a “quick count” based on hard copies of voting records at thousands of locations across the country. In its press release last night, PC noted that some 2,000 volunteers helped with the count. By its very nature the quick count is an estimate, and as PC itself noted in its press release, the findings are not official. PC “will await the official results” the press release stated, though few heeded the advice. And when PC was making its “technical tie” announcement, the official results were already pretty far along, and showed Moreno up by about two percentage points. In this context the PC announcement only served to cause greater confusion.

Though PC didn’t disclose any information on its actual quick count results last night, today PC representatives clarified that the quick count showed Moreno with 50.8 percent of the vote and Lasso with 49.2 percent. Rather than casting doubt on the official results, the quick count seems to confirm it.

So if the quick count showed a 1.6 percentage point victory for Moreno, why did PC say it was just 0.6 percentage points and refuse to disclose who was in the lead? The quick count, like any estimation, comes with a margin of error. In this case PC reported it as +/- one percentage point. The PC quick count provides an upper and lower bound of support for each candidate and given the margin of error, it was possible that Lasso could emerge ahead of Moreno. But by saying the difference was just 0.6, and refusing to disclose who was leading, PC appears to have misrepresented its own findings, artificially making the result look closer than it was.

A PC representative said today that given the margin of error, the decision to not disclose who was in the lead or the actual results of the quick count was in order to not generate confusion. But PC’s actions did exactly the opposite.   If they had simply said that a quick count, based on 2,000 voting records, showed Moreno up by 1.6 percentage points, but that Lasso was within the margin of error, observers and voters could contrast that with the official results and reach an educated opinion: that PC’s quick count was completely in line with the official results.

Already today the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, has pointed out that PC’s list of funders includes such entities as USAID (part of the US State Department), the National Endowment for Democracy, National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute, the World Bank, and Canadian and UK embassies, among many others. Given those ties, many will likely question the motives of PC, since all or almost all of these entities have long histories of intervention in Latin America.

The idea that PC was seeking to avoid confusion by giving misleading and non-complete results of its quick count, which, contrary to its statement last night actually appears to confirm the official results, would be laughable, if it wasn’t so dangerous. And that’s because Lasso and Ecuador’s opposition is grasping at anything that may bolster their claims of fraud and the findings of a “technical tie” were broadcast widely last night and today.

The opposition has presented no evidence of any sort of fraud that could have changed the results of the election – though has said it will soon, and if it’s compelling, it should be properly investigated. Instead, however, last night Lasso cited the exit polls which showed him winning as proof the election was stolen.

It is true that three exit polls showed Lasso winning the election, two by a small amount within the margins of error (technical tie?). The third, Cedatos, which is generally referred to in the press as the most trustworthy of Ecuador’s pollsters gave Lasso a 6 percentage point victory. Another exit poll showed Moreno winning. But as noted above, conflicting exit polls alone cannot serve as a basis for challenging election results.  

Neither can quick counts, and especially when the quick count, based on official voting records and conducted by the “respected” NGO PC, actually seems to confirm the official results.

Lenin Moreno of the governing Alianza Pais party has been declared the winner of yesterday’s presidential election in Ecuador. With more than 99 percent of the votes counted, Moreno secured 51.1 percent of valid votes compared to his competitor, banker Guillermo Lasso, who received 48.9 percent.

Soon after polls closed yesterday Lasso declared his victory, and began the celebrations, based on the results of an exit poll. Hours later, as official results began to show a different result, angry Lasso supporters took to the streets alleging fraud. Exit polls, which are often wrong by much more than the margin of this election, are a non-credible basis for challenging an electoral result, but those weren’t the only numbers that raised the ire of Ecuador’s opposition last night.

As official results from Ecuador’s electoral council were being posted online, the NGO Participacion Ciudadana (PC) held a press conference and announced that their “quick count” showed a “technical tie” between the two candidates. The difference was just 0.6 percentage points, the NGO said, and it refused to disclose who was in the lead. The statement added fuel to the fire and emboldened those eager to discredit the official results.

English-language media has been quick to cite the “technical tie” finding, but few seem to have tried to understand it. The Miami Herald, Washington Post, Associated Press and others all cited the “respected” NGO and its determination of a “technical tie” in their coverage of the election results, for example. So, what did PC actually find and what was it based on?

As they have in prior elections, PC conducted a “quick count” based on hard copies of voting records at thousands of locations across the country. In its press release last night, PC noted that some 2,000 volunteers helped with the count. By its very nature the quick count is an estimate, and as PC itself noted in its press release, the findings are not official. PC “will await the official results” the press release stated, though few heeded the advice. And when PC was making its “technical tie” announcement, the official results were already pretty far along, and showed Moreno up by about two percentage points. In this context the PC announcement only served to cause greater confusion.

Though PC didn’t disclose any information on its actual quick count results last night, today PC representatives clarified that the quick count showed Moreno with 50.8 percent of the vote and Lasso with 49.2 percent. Rather than casting doubt on the official results, the quick count seems to confirm it.

So if the quick count showed a 1.6 percentage point victory for Moreno, why did PC say it was just 0.6 percentage points and refuse to disclose who was in the lead? The quick count, like any estimation, comes with a margin of error. In this case PC reported it as +/- one percentage point. The PC quick count provides an upper and lower bound of support for each candidate and given the margin of error, it was possible that Lasso could emerge ahead of Moreno. But by saying the difference was just 0.6, and refusing to disclose who was leading, PC appears to have misrepresented its own findings, artificially making the result look closer than it was.

A PC representative said today that given the margin of error, the decision to not disclose who was in the lead or the actual results of the quick count was in order to not generate confusion. But PC’s actions did exactly the opposite.   If they had simply said that a quick count, based on 2,000 voting records, showed Moreno up by 1.6 percentage points, but that Lasso was within the margin of error, observers and voters could contrast that with the official results and reach an educated opinion: that PC’s quick count was completely in line with the official results.

Already today the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, has pointed out that PC’s list of funders includes such entities as USAID (part of the US State Department), the National Endowment for Democracy, National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute, the World Bank, and Canadian and UK embassies, among many others. Given those ties, many will likely question the motives of PC, since all or almost all of these entities have long histories of intervention in Latin America.

The idea that PC was seeking to avoid confusion by giving misleading and non-complete results of its quick count, which, contrary to its statement last night actually appears to confirm the official results, would be laughable, if it wasn’t so dangerous. And that’s because Lasso and Ecuador’s opposition is grasping at anything that may bolster their claims of fraud and the findings of a “technical tie” were broadcast widely last night and today.

The opposition has presented no evidence of any sort of fraud that could have changed the results of the election – though has said it will soon, and if it’s compelling, it should be properly investigated. Instead, however, last night Lasso cited the exit polls which showed him winning as proof the election was stolen.

It is true that three exit polls showed Lasso winning the election, two by a small amount within the margins of error (technical tie?). The third, Cedatos, which is generally referred to in the press as the most trustworthy of Ecuador’s pollsters gave Lasso a 6 percentage point victory. Another exit poll showed Moreno winning. But as noted above, conflicting exit polls alone cannot serve as a basis for challenging election results.  

Neither can quick counts, and especially when the quick count, based on official voting records and conducted by the “respected” NGO PC, actually seems to confirm the official results.

Last week, I went through public documentation that indicates Ecuadorian presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso, despite “retiring” from banking in 2012, continues to be the largest shareholder in Banco Guayaquil. There is also public documentation not to mention Lasso’s own admission that he and his family are owners of a bank in Panama, Banisi. In 2014, Ecuador passed new regulations preventing banks from having subsidiaries in tax havens, potentially putting Lasso and his family in violation of the law.

Lasso has not addressed the allegations in depth, but has acknowledged that his family owns the Panamanian bank while also declaring that all his assets are public and in Ecuador. Moving past the obvious contradictory nature of such statements (if you own a bank in Panama, it’s pretty clear that not all your assets are in Ecuador), new revelations this week from Cynthia Garcia of Argentina’s Página/12 indicate that Lasso and his associates likely have significant offshore holdings in addition to those located in the Panamanian bank, particularly in the state of Florida — known for its lax corporate oversight and as an ideal spot for foreigners to park their dollars. Prompted by Garcia’s reporting, I again looked into the public record to see what was there.

In 2009, according to the Florida Division of Corporations, Guillermo E. Lasso the candidate’s son registered an LLC in Florida called Nora Investment US. From June 2009 to December 2010, the holding company purchased 59 properties, which it still owns today, in Florida’s Broward County according to publicly available records. The purchases, mostly condos, totaled $5.7 million.

But this was just the beginning. In 2011, two new directors were added to Nora Investment US: Miguel Macias and Euvenia Touriz. Both were previously officials at Banco Guayaquil, and both are currently listed as directors at the Banisi bank in Panama that is owned by Lasso. From 2011 to 2013, Lasso (the candidate’s son), Macias, and Touriz registered 10 LLCs in Florida in which they are all listed as directors. The additional LLCs were also used to purchase properties in Florida.

In August 2014, following Ecuador’s implementation of new regulations concerning offshore assets, Lasso’s son’s name was systematically removed as a director from all 10 companies, the public records show. But Macias and Touriz continued to open additional holding companies. It is important to note that while LLCs list directors, the so-called beneficial owner or true owner is concealed.

The proliferation of new holding companies continued, however. There are currently 28 different holding companies registered in Florida that list Macias and Touriz as directors as a simple search here shows. Far from just past practice, the public record shows the two Lasso associates registering a new company as recently as January 2017 ? just a few months ago and in the height of the presidential campaign.

Together, the 28 holding companies are owners of Florida properties with an assessed market value of $31.2 million  likely an undervaluation. With the exception of two million dollar commercial properties each purchased in April 2016, there is no public record of any mortgages being taken out by the holding companies, indicating that the purchases were likely made with cash.

Most of the properties purchased appear to be multiple units within larger real estate developments. For example, on just one day in February 2012, one LLC, Nora Investment Tres US, purchased 19 homes in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, totaling $2.6 million. On April 15, 2011, another company, Nora Investment Uno US, purchased 14 properties in Doral, Florida for a total of $3.2 million.

However, in more recent years, the real estate purchases shifted from lower cost units to high-end luxury apartments in Miami. From July 2013 through October 2015, nine different holding companies purchased a total of 14 apartments in Miami  many of which are in the same building complex, the Asia Brickell Key Miami. The average purchase price of these 14 properties was $1.2 million, and there appears to be no record of any mortgage being taken out for any of the purchases. The most expensive of the luxury condos, purchased for $1.7 million in March 2014, can be seen in this real estate company’s promotional video.

The most recent real estate purchase by one of these Lasso-affiliated LLCs was made in July 2016, according to publicly available records.

To be clear, there is no documentation of who the real owners of these 28 Florida-registered LLCs actually are. However, the presence of Guillermo Lasso’s son on the initial registration documents, and the ongoing presence of two directors of Lasso’s Panamanian bank on all 28 LLCs, certainly raises significant questions about the 144 properties they currently own in Florida, and to what extent the Lasso family has used offshore tax havens and LLCs to hide its wealth. (In 2012, Ecuador recognized the US states of Florida, Wyoming, Nevada and Delaware as “tax havens.” In 2015 Ecuador removed the four states from its list of tax havens, but introduced the concept of low tax jurisdictions which are handled on a case-by-case basis.)

It’s worth noting that alongside this February’s first-round presidential elections, Ecuadorians approved a ballot initiative barring politicians in the country from having bank accounts or companies in tax havens.

Last week, I went through public documentation that indicates Ecuadorian presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso, despite “retiring” from banking in 2012, continues to be the largest shareholder in Banco Guayaquil. There is also public documentation not to mention Lasso’s own admission that he and his family are owners of a bank in Panama, Banisi. In 2014, Ecuador passed new regulations preventing banks from having subsidiaries in tax havens, potentially putting Lasso and his family in violation of the law.

Lasso has not addressed the allegations in depth, but has acknowledged that his family owns the Panamanian bank while also declaring that all his assets are public and in Ecuador. Moving past the obvious contradictory nature of such statements (if you own a bank in Panama, it’s pretty clear that not all your assets are in Ecuador), new revelations this week from Cynthia Garcia of Argentina’s Página/12 indicate that Lasso and his associates likely have significant offshore holdings in addition to those located in the Panamanian bank, particularly in the state of Florida — known for its lax corporate oversight and as an ideal spot for foreigners to park their dollars. Prompted by Garcia’s reporting, I again looked into the public record to see what was there.

In 2009, according to the Florida Division of Corporations, Guillermo E. Lasso the candidate’s son registered an LLC in Florida called Nora Investment US. From June 2009 to December 2010, the holding company purchased 59 properties, which it still owns today, in Florida’s Broward County according to publicly available records. The purchases, mostly condos, totaled $5.7 million.

But this was just the beginning. In 2011, two new directors were added to Nora Investment US: Miguel Macias and Euvenia Touriz. Both were previously officials at Banco Guayaquil, and both are currently listed as directors at the Banisi bank in Panama that is owned by Lasso. From 2011 to 2013, Lasso (the candidate’s son), Macias, and Touriz registered 10 LLCs in Florida in which they are all listed as directors. The additional LLCs were also used to purchase properties in Florida.

In August 2014, following Ecuador’s implementation of new regulations concerning offshore assets, Lasso’s son’s name was systematically removed as a director from all 10 companies, the public records show. But Macias and Touriz continued to open additional holding companies. It is important to note that while LLCs list directors, the so-called beneficial owner or true owner is concealed.

The proliferation of new holding companies continued, however. There are currently 28 different holding companies registered in Florida that list Macias and Touriz as directors as a simple search here shows. Far from just past practice, the public record shows the two Lasso associates registering a new company as recently as January 2017 ? just a few months ago and in the height of the presidential campaign.

Together, the 28 holding companies are owners of Florida properties with an assessed market value of $31.2 million  likely an undervaluation. With the exception of two million dollar commercial properties each purchased in April 2016, there is no public record of any mortgages being taken out by the holding companies, indicating that the purchases were likely made with cash.

Most of the properties purchased appear to be multiple units within larger real estate developments. For example, on just one day in February 2012, one LLC, Nora Investment Tres US, purchased 19 homes in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, totaling $2.6 million. On April 15, 2011, another company, Nora Investment Uno US, purchased 14 properties in Doral, Florida for a total of $3.2 million.

However, in more recent years, the real estate purchases shifted from lower cost units to high-end luxury apartments in Miami. From July 2013 through October 2015, nine different holding companies purchased a total of 14 apartments in Miami  many of which are in the same building complex, the Asia Brickell Key Miami. The average purchase price of these 14 properties was $1.2 million, and there appears to be no record of any mortgage being taken out for any of the purchases. The most expensive of the luxury condos, purchased for $1.7 million in March 2014, can be seen in this real estate company’s promotional video.

The most recent real estate purchase by one of these Lasso-affiliated LLCs was made in July 2016, according to publicly available records.

To be clear, there is no documentation of who the real owners of these 28 Florida-registered LLCs actually are. However, the presence of Guillermo Lasso’s son on the initial registration documents, and the ongoing presence of two directors of Lasso’s Panamanian bank on all 28 LLCs, certainly raises significant questions about the 144 properties they currently own in Florida, and to what extent the Lasso family has used offshore tax havens and LLCs to hide its wealth. (In 2012, Ecuador recognized the US states of Florida, Wyoming, Nevada and Delaware as “tax havens.” In 2015 Ecuador removed the four states from its list of tax havens, but introduced the concept of low tax jurisdictions which are handled on a case-by-case basis.)

It’s worth noting that alongside this February’s first-round presidential elections, Ecuadorians approved a ballot initiative barring politicians in the country from having bank accounts or companies in tax havens.

Guillermo Lasso, the opposition presidential candidate in Ecuador’s upcoming runoff election, resigned as executive vice president of one of Ecuador’s largest banks, Banco Guayaquil, in 2012. In the current campaign, much of the international media has referred to Lasso as an “ex-banker” or “former banker.” But an investigation into Lasso’s offshore holdings and trusts, by Cynthia Garcia of Argentina’s Página/12, reveals a complex web of holding companies that obscure Lasso’s financial positions and indicates that Lasso may even be breaking Ecuadorian law with his ownership stake in a bank in the tax haven of Panama.

In 2013, according to public records from Ecuador’s Superintendency of Corporations, five Delaware-registered companies, bearing the names of cities across the world, transferred their shares in Banco Guayaquil’s parent company, Corporación MultiBG, to five trusts. Each trust just happens to bear the initials of family members and associates of Lasso. One contains Lasso’s initials — GLM — for Guillermo Lasso Mendoza (Fideicomiso Mercantil de Administración GLM). It appears that Lasso has maintained a significant stake in Banco Guayaquil through this trust.

Ownership records from Ecuador’s Superintendency of Companies show that GLM trust is currently the largest shareholder in Corporación MultiBG, with a 39.5 percent stake. Together, the five trusts related to Lasso control 77.5 percent of the shares of MultiBG.

A 2014 Banco Guayaquil document, prepared for a bond issuance, reveals that MultiBG holds 78.87 percent of the $293 million in Banco Guayaquil shares. This would imply that GLM Trust currently has a more than $90 million stake in the bank; the five trusts together hold almost double that.

Despite being described as a “former banker,” Lasso has continued as the chairman of MultiBG and still presides over board meetings of Banco Guayaquil’s parent company, according to public records from Ecuador’s Superintendency of Corporations.

In his presidential campaign, Lasso has pledged to eliminate a number of taxes that have been levied on the financial sector under the administration of current President Rafael Correa. Lasso’s apparent ownership stake in Banco Guayaquil means he would stand to make millions off those tax cuts, if implemented.

But the revelations do not just concern his obscured and likely stake in Ecuador’s financial sector.

In 2007, Banco Guayaquil opened an offshore bank in Panama, Banco de Guayaquil (Panamá). A 2007 public record from Panama’s Superintendency of Banks reveals that the largest shareholder of Corporación MultiBG (the parent company of Banco Guayaquil) at the time was Andean Investments Ltd, a Cayman Island registered company. Andean Investments is no longer an active company, as it appears its shares went to the Delaware registered companies, and then, most recently, to the trusts associated with Lasso. But the record indicates the historical connections between Lasso and offshore holding companies.

In 2011, the name of Banco de Guayaquil (Panamá) was changed to Banisi.

In 2014, Ecuador passed new legislation that prevented bankers (or banks) from having subsidiaries in offshore tax havens. Panama is considered as such by Ecuador’s Superintendency of Banks.

Following the new law, Banisi transferred 100 percent of its shares to a new Panama-registered company, Banisi Holding.

The Panamanian Public Registry of Corporations docket on Banisi Holding (Folio Nº 788480) confirms Guillermo Lasso is the president and a director. Lasso’s wife is listed as a director and as the treasurer. Lasso’s son is also listed among the officers. The registry shows Banisi Holding as having $30 million in capital. The company was registered by the law firm Sucre, Arias and Reyes, based in Panama. But the corporate records do not disclose who the ultimate owners of Banisi Holding actually are.

In April 2016, following the release of the “Panama Papers,” Lasso acknowledged that he had a Panamanian company, Banisi Holding, that owned Banisi Bank.

But the paper trail continues to disguise Lasso’s apparent stake in Banisi. A 2015 audit of Banisi Holding, conducted by the international firm Deloitte, states that the ultimate controlling company of Banisi Holding is yet another Panamanian company, Pietro Overseas.

Pietro Overseas, according to the Panamanian Public Registry of Corporations (Folio Nº 735031) has capital of just $10,000. It was registered by the Panamanian law firm Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee. Its directors are Marco A. San Berguido, Gina A. Martinez G., and Fernando A. Gil. The directors, who appear to be Panamanian lawyers, are associated with hundreds of companies in Panama.

Is Pietro Overseas, in reality, owned by Lasso? And does it even matter, since Lasso already admitted to owning Banisi? Either way, the public record raises significant questions about Lasso’s financial holdings both in Ecuador and abroad, if his ownership of Banisi Holding is proven in court, would appear to put him in violation of Ecuador’s laws.

Guillermo Lasso, the opposition presidential candidate in Ecuador’s upcoming runoff election, resigned as executive vice president of one of Ecuador’s largest banks, Banco Guayaquil, in 2012. In the current campaign, much of the international media has referred to Lasso as an “ex-banker” or “former banker.” But an investigation into Lasso’s offshore holdings and trusts, by Cynthia Garcia of Argentina’s Página/12, reveals a complex web of holding companies that obscure Lasso’s financial positions and indicates that Lasso may even be breaking Ecuadorian law with his ownership stake in a bank in the tax haven of Panama.

In 2013, according to public records from Ecuador’s Superintendency of Corporations, five Delaware-registered companies, bearing the names of cities across the world, transferred their shares in Banco Guayaquil’s parent company, Corporación MultiBG, to five trusts. Each trust just happens to bear the initials of family members and associates of Lasso. One contains Lasso’s initials — GLM — for Guillermo Lasso Mendoza (Fideicomiso Mercantil de Administración GLM). It appears that Lasso has maintained a significant stake in Banco Guayaquil through this trust.

Ownership records from Ecuador’s Superintendency of Companies show that GLM trust is currently the largest shareholder in Corporación MultiBG, with a 39.5 percent stake. Together, the five trusts related to Lasso control 77.5 percent of the shares of MultiBG.

A 2014 Banco Guayaquil document, prepared for a bond issuance, reveals that MultiBG holds 78.87 percent of the $293 million in Banco Guayaquil shares. This would imply that GLM Trust currently has a more than $90 million stake in the bank; the five trusts together hold almost double that.

Despite being described as a “former banker,” Lasso has continued as the chairman of MultiBG and still presides over board meetings of Banco Guayaquil’s parent company, according to public records from Ecuador’s Superintendency of Corporations.

In his presidential campaign, Lasso has pledged to eliminate a number of taxes that have been levied on the financial sector under the administration of current President Rafael Correa. Lasso’s apparent ownership stake in Banco Guayaquil means he would stand to make millions off those tax cuts, if implemented.

But the revelations do not just concern his obscured and likely stake in Ecuador’s financial sector.

In 2007, Banco Guayaquil opened an offshore bank in Panama, Banco de Guayaquil (Panamá). A 2007 public record from Panama’s Superintendency of Banks reveals that the largest shareholder of Corporación MultiBG (the parent company of Banco Guayaquil) at the time was Andean Investments Ltd, a Cayman Island registered company. Andean Investments is no longer an active company, as it appears its shares went to the Delaware registered companies, and then, most recently, to the trusts associated with Lasso. But the record indicates the historical connections between Lasso and offshore holding companies.

In 2011, the name of Banco de Guayaquil (Panamá) was changed to Banisi.

In 2014, Ecuador passed new legislation that prevented bankers (or banks) from having subsidiaries in offshore tax havens. Panama is considered as such by Ecuador’s Superintendency of Banks.

Following the new law, Banisi transferred 100 percent of its shares to a new Panama-registered company, Banisi Holding.

The Panamanian Public Registry of Corporations docket on Banisi Holding (Folio Nº 788480) confirms Guillermo Lasso is the president and a director. Lasso’s wife is listed as a director and as the treasurer. Lasso’s son is also listed among the officers. The registry shows Banisi Holding as having $30 million in capital. The company was registered by the law firm Sucre, Arias and Reyes, based in Panama. But the corporate records do not disclose who the ultimate owners of Banisi Holding actually are.

In April 2016, following the release of the “Panama Papers,” Lasso acknowledged that he had a Panamanian company, Banisi Holding, that owned Banisi Bank.

But the paper trail continues to disguise Lasso’s apparent stake in Banisi. A 2015 audit of Banisi Holding, conducted by the international firm Deloitte, states that the ultimate controlling company of Banisi Holding is yet another Panamanian company, Pietro Overseas.

Pietro Overseas, according to the Panamanian Public Registry of Corporations (Folio Nº 735031) has capital of just $10,000. It was registered by the Panamanian law firm Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee. Its directors are Marco A. San Berguido, Gina A. Martinez G., and Fernando A. Gil. The directors, who appear to be Panamanian lawyers, are associated with hundreds of companies in Panama.

Is Pietro Overseas, in reality, owned by Lasso? And does it even matter, since Lasso already admitted to owning Banisi? Either way, the public record raises significant questions about Lasso’s financial holdings both in Ecuador and abroad, if his ownership of Banisi Holding is proven in court, would appear to put him in violation of Ecuador’s laws.

After a year of zero growth over 2014, Brazil’s economy shrank nearly 6 percent in 2015, and another 3 percent over the first three quarters of 2016. Gross Domestic Product in the third quarter was only 0.7 percent greater than in the same period of 2010. Yet over those six years, the working-age population grew about 8 percent.

Domestic demand has collapsed. From its peak at the start of 2014, Brazilian demand for real goods and services has fallen nearly 11 percent, subtracting 4 percentage points annualized from real GDP growth.

For more, check out the latest Latin America Data Byte.

After a year of zero growth over 2014, Brazil’s economy shrank nearly 6 percent in 2015, and another 3 percent over the first three quarters of 2016. Gross Domestic Product in the third quarter was only 0.7 percent greater than in the same period of 2010. Yet over those six years, the working-age population grew about 8 percent.

Domestic demand has collapsed. From its peak at the start of 2014, Brazilian demand for real goods and services has fallen nearly 11 percent, subtracting 4 percentage points annualized from real GDP growth.

For more, check out the latest Latin America Data Byte.

We have published a response to Vanderbilt University’s Latin America Public Opinion Project, related to their report on USAID-funded anticrime and violence prevention programs in Central America.

We are responding to LAPOP’s critique of our report, “Have US-Funded CARSI Programs Reduced Crime and Violence in Central America?” that we released in September 2016. Our September report was an examination of the only publicly accessible impact assessment of USAID-funded anticrime and community-based violence prevention programs carried out under the umbrella of the US State Department’s Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). LAPOP took issue with our illustration of certain methodological flaws in LAPOP’s study, as well as with the manner in which we presented our conclusions. LAPOP’s criticisms appear to be largely based on misunderstanding and misinterpretation of our arguments and fail to address our main findings. The problems with the LAPOP study that we identified still stand, as does the validity of our conclusion: LAPOP’s study cannot support the conclusion that intervention caused the areas subject to treatment in the CARSI programs to improve relative to those areas where no intervention took place.

You can find our response paper, just published, here.

We have published a response to Vanderbilt University’s Latin America Public Opinion Project, related to their report on USAID-funded anticrime and violence prevention programs in Central America.

We are responding to LAPOP’s critique of our report, “Have US-Funded CARSI Programs Reduced Crime and Violence in Central America?” that we released in September 2016. Our September report was an examination of the only publicly accessible impact assessment of USAID-funded anticrime and community-based violence prevention programs carried out under the umbrella of the US State Department’s Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). LAPOP took issue with our illustration of certain methodological flaws in LAPOP’s study, as well as with the manner in which we presented our conclusions. LAPOP’s criticisms appear to be largely based on misunderstanding and misinterpretation of our arguments and fail to address our main findings. The problems with the LAPOP study that we identified still stand, as does the validity of our conclusion: LAPOP’s study cannot support the conclusion that intervention caused the areas subject to treatment in the CARSI programs to improve relative to those areas where no intervention took place.

You can find our response paper, just published, here.

The clearest winner in Chile’s 2016 municipal elections was abstention, and that is bad news for all parties, left and right.

Municipal elections in Chile are often used as an indicator to measure how well traditional parties will fare in the following years’ parliamentary and presidential elections. During the latest elections ? held on October 23 ? Chileans voted for their alcaldes (mayors) and concejales (council members), varying between six, eight, or ten total local representatives, depending on the size of the population within the municipality.

The high rate of abstention in these elections isn’t surprising given the national polling data showing a steady decline in public confidence in government institutions and parties over the past two decades. According to the latest Servel figures, the 2016 municipal elections reached a 65 percent abstention level — a new historic high. The 35 percent participation rate for 2016’s municipal election is down from 43.2 percent in 2012.

In 2011, modifications to Chile’s electoral system instituted automatic voter inscription and the voluntary vote, following nearly a century ofobligatory voting. Taking these high abstention figures as simply a sign of voter apathy would be a mistake. Similarly, making an argument for a return to compulsory voting in order to increase participation also misses the point. At the center of the problem of abstention is the perceived failure of both the right and the left to implement reforms to create a more inclusive democracy and an equitable development model.

The economic transformation imposed by the military regime after the 1973 coup against Salvador Allende altered the country’s political system. Allende’s model of mass participation and egalitarian politics was replaced with a political style guided by consensus among politicians and by technocratic mediation. The center-left Concertación coalition governed for the majority of the transition to democracy and, to its credit, made important modifications and reforms while maintaining economic growth rates that were among the highest in the hemisphere. Yet the underlying neoliberal development model has gone unchanged, while Chile continues to be listed as the most unequal developed country in the OECD.

Falling confidence in the center-left’s consensus politics, as well as its internal disunity and fragmentation, opened the way in 2010 for the ascendancy of Sebastian Piñera, Chile’s first elected right-wing president. Piñera’s popularity momentarily peaked at 63 percent during the rescue of 33 trapped miners in October 2010, and then dramatically fell to 26 percent after the popular uprisings in August 2011, according to reported surveys. The rise in mass mobilizations, especially the 2011 student protests, reawakened segments of the population that had been affected negatively by the extension of “free market” principles to educationhealth carethe pension system and labor.

In that context, during the 2013 presidential race, the center-left Concertación sought to renovate itself by adopting the demands of popular sectors and by forming a new political platform promising significant reforms. The coalition refashioned itself as the Nueva Mayoria (New Majority), by incorporating many of the leading student actors from 2011 and previously excluded leftist and independent parties, such as the Communist Party. In order to understand the high abstention rate and current unpopularity of this new coalition it’s necessary to examine further the economic and political developments of Michelle Bachelet’s second term.

Bachelet was re-elected with 62 percent of the vote. Of the 56 reform measures she promised within the first 100 days in office, 41 were instituted. A series of scandals and a slowing economic growth rate forced Bachelet to scale back the ambitions of her reform projects. Chilean annual GDP growth had averaged 5 percent between 1990 and 2014, but there are signs that the economy has been slowing. With annual growth expected at 1.9 percent in 2016 (down from 2.1 percent in 2015), the fall in demand and price of copper could be partly to blame.

A number of high-profile corruption investigations have also compromised Bachelet’s reform agenda. The uncovering of a web of illegal campaign contributions by business interests tarnished the public perception of Chile’s political class. The “Pentagate” case, as it is known,is smaller in scale than Brazil’s “car wash” scandal; however it has been equally disastrous in damaging the image of nearly all major Chilean political parties. While Bachelet has not been personally implicated in these scandals, her son and daughter-in-law have faced investigations over a $10 million loan they received to finance a speculative land purchase.

The lack of confidence in Chile’s democratic model was reflected in the latest Latinobarometro survey, an annual study that observes the development of democracy in Latin America. Second only to Brazilians’, Chileans’ confidence in democracy dropped the most dramatically in the region: 11 percentage points since 2015. As of late 2016, public approval of Chile’s legislature is below 10 percent, while Bachelet’s rating has plummeted from a high of 56 percent in April 2014 to a record low of 18 percent in September 2016 (which rose slightly to 24 percent in late October as reported by Adimark surveys).

Criticism of Bachelet’s second term has been vocal from both the right and the left. While conservatives argue that many of her reform projects are too ambitious, the left considers them insufficient. Take education reform: the tax reform passed in 2014 sought to finance the extension of free tuition to the most economically vulnerable sector of students by raising taxes on corporate and capital income. The right argued that this would drive foreign investment out of Chile, while the student movement criticized the reform project for not tackling the fundamental issue of ending the profit motive in Chile’s education system. For the left, Bachelet’s re-election was predicated on the hope of progressively restructuring Chile’s institutions; many think she simply has not done enough.

The 2016 municipal elections were marked by controversy. Servel, which is tasked with overseeing the election and voter registry, instituted limits on the ability of candidates to reach out to voters. Air time for candidates was restricted and financial penalties were put in place to limit the use of campaign propaganda in certain public spaces. Servel’s restrictions, according to some critics, are partly to blame for the lower rates of participation. Then, less than a week before the election, Servel mistakenly reassigned half a million voters to the wrong localities. The government attempted to fix the error while Servel blamed the civil registry. However, days before the election, thousands of voters were still registered in municipalities where they didn’t reside, potentially affecting some of the most contested races. Evidently, reforms designed to improve the electoral system have flaws in both their design and implementation.

Two of the key races used to forecast presidential election outcomes are the cities of Santiago and Providencia, where the right-wing Chile Vamoscoalition won against a fragmented list of left-wing candidates. The victory of Evelyn Matthei, who lost the presidential bid in 2013, and of Felipe Alessandri, is seen by some as a positive sign for former president Sebastian Piñera ? who’s poised to be one of the leading contenders in the 2017 presidential elections.

Though Reuters and The Wall Street Journal are quick to characterize the election outcome as a decisive victory for the right, a closer look at the numbers shows that the two major right-wing parties experienced the largest proportional net losses in voters compared to the municipal elections just four years ago. The UDI, which was at the center of the Pentagate scandal, lost 15 percent of their voter base, while Pinera’s Renovación Nacional (RN) party lost 12 percent. In fact, every major party in the two coalitions, with the exception of the Communist Party, had a net loss in votes based on a comparison of Servel figures from 2012 and 2016. Bachelet’s Socialist Party lost over 160,000 votes (8 percent), the Christian Democratic Party lost over 350,000 votes (11 percent), and former president Ricardo Lagos’ Party for Democracy lost 90,000 votes (6 percent). Independent candidates as a whole were the only other bloc to gain significant support, going from 11 percent to 17 percent of the vote in 2016 as compared to 2012.

The right-wing coalition Chile Vamosnow holds 144 alcaldes (39 percent) while New Majority has 141 (38 percent). For concejales, Chile Vamos has 41 percent of the total council members and New Majority has 47 percent. Given the fact that there was a 65 percent abstention rate and no nominally outstanding win for the right, it’s quite difficult to resolutely declare a victory for either coalition bloc. More importantly, the net loss of actual votes for both the traditional left and right parties should be a cause of concern.

The most surprising outcome of the October 23 vote was Jorge Sharp’s victory in the port city of Valparaiso. A citizens’ primary nominated the then largely unknown figure (outside of university politics and activist circles) by a slim 38 votes, in an effort to break the duopoly of the establishment coalitions. In the three-way race Sharp, a 31-year-old lawyer, beat the right-wing incumbent, and a New Majority-backed candidate with over 50 percent of the votes.

Sharp’s candidacy was backed by a strong grassroots citizens’ movement organized under the name Pacto Urbano de La Matriz. His victory even led The Guardian to declare the fomenting of a “quiet revolution” by Chile’s independents. The other two remarkable gains came from the political blocs respectively led by Gabriel Boric and Giorgio Jackson, two former student activists and ? according to CADEM ? among the most positively assessed members of congress. Jackson’s mostly youth-led political movement, Revolución Democrática, nominated for the first time local candidates and won five concejalrepresentatives with over 60,000 votes. Similarly Boric’s Movimiento Autonomista, a voting bloc that Sharp also belongs to, won over 68,000 votes and 11 representatives. Sharp’s first year in Valparaiso will be closely watched as these independents begin forming a broad front to support candidates in 2017.

History may judge Bachelet’s greatest legacy to be electoral reform legislation passed in early 2016. The law eliminates the binomial model ? an electoral system inherited from the military years that entrenched the party duopoly ? and replaces it with a proportional representation model to be unveiled during the 2017 presidential and congressional elections. New restrictions on campaign finance will also eliminate corporate contributions. The modifications, although they didn’t apply to the 2016 municipal elections, will likely provide an additional boost to independent candidacies.

With these results in mind, the 2017 race is not assured for either coalition. The latest polls asking voters about the upcoming elections illustrate meager interest in all candidates currently positioning themselves to run. Piñera continues to be the leading candidate, but is polling with just 20 percent of the electorate. Alejandro Guillier, an independent “antiestablishment” candidate, has seen the greatest jump in poll numbers in just one month, from 5 percent to 15 percent. If either of the two traditional coalitions ultimately seeks to restore confidence in the democratic system, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for them to pay closer attention to the few political movements still able to energize disenchanted sectors of the population to organize and actually vote.

The clearest winner in Chile’s 2016 municipal elections was abstention, and that is bad news for all parties, left and right.

Municipal elections in Chile are often used as an indicator to measure how well traditional parties will fare in the following years’ parliamentary and presidential elections. During the latest elections ? held on October 23 ? Chileans voted for their alcaldes (mayors) and concejales (council members), varying between six, eight, or ten total local representatives, depending on the size of the population within the municipality.

The high rate of abstention in these elections isn’t surprising given the national polling data showing a steady decline in public confidence in government institutions and parties over the past two decades. According to the latest Servel figures, the 2016 municipal elections reached a 65 percent abstention level — a new historic high. The 35 percent participation rate for 2016’s municipal election is down from 43.2 percent in 2012.

In 2011, modifications to Chile’s electoral system instituted automatic voter inscription and the voluntary vote, following nearly a century ofobligatory voting. Taking these high abstention figures as simply a sign of voter apathy would be a mistake. Similarly, making an argument for a return to compulsory voting in order to increase participation also misses the point. At the center of the problem of abstention is the perceived failure of both the right and the left to implement reforms to create a more inclusive democracy and an equitable development model.

The economic transformation imposed by the military regime after the 1973 coup against Salvador Allende altered the country’s political system. Allende’s model of mass participation and egalitarian politics was replaced with a political style guided by consensus among politicians and by technocratic mediation. The center-left Concertación coalition governed for the majority of the transition to democracy and, to its credit, made important modifications and reforms while maintaining economic growth rates that were among the highest in the hemisphere. Yet the underlying neoliberal development model has gone unchanged, while Chile continues to be listed as the most unequal developed country in the OECD.

Falling confidence in the center-left’s consensus politics, as well as its internal disunity and fragmentation, opened the way in 2010 for the ascendancy of Sebastian Piñera, Chile’s first elected right-wing president. Piñera’s popularity momentarily peaked at 63 percent during the rescue of 33 trapped miners in October 2010, and then dramatically fell to 26 percent after the popular uprisings in August 2011, according to reported surveys. The rise in mass mobilizations, especially the 2011 student protests, reawakened segments of the population that had been affected negatively by the extension of “free market” principles to educationhealth carethe pension system and labor.

In that context, during the 2013 presidential race, the center-left Concertación sought to renovate itself by adopting the demands of popular sectors and by forming a new political platform promising significant reforms. The coalition refashioned itself as the Nueva Mayoria (New Majority), by incorporating many of the leading student actors from 2011 and previously excluded leftist and independent parties, such as the Communist Party. In order to understand the high abstention rate and current unpopularity of this new coalition it’s necessary to examine further the economic and political developments of Michelle Bachelet’s second term.

Bachelet was re-elected with 62 percent of the vote. Of the 56 reform measures she promised within the first 100 days in office, 41 were instituted. A series of scandals and a slowing economic growth rate forced Bachelet to scale back the ambitions of her reform projects. Chilean annual GDP growth had averaged 5 percent between 1990 and 2014, but there are signs that the economy has been slowing. With annual growth expected at 1.9 percent in 2016 (down from 2.1 percent in 2015), the fall in demand and price of copper could be partly to blame.

A number of high-profile corruption investigations have also compromised Bachelet’s reform agenda. The uncovering of a web of illegal campaign contributions by business interests tarnished the public perception of Chile’s political class. The “Pentagate” case, as it is known,is smaller in scale than Brazil’s “car wash” scandal; however it has been equally disastrous in damaging the image of nearly all major Chilean political parties. While Bachelet has not been personally implicated in these scandals, her son and daughter-in-law have faced investigations over a $10 million loan they received to finance a speculative land purchase.

The lack of confidence in Chile’s democratic model was reflected in the latest Latinobarometro survey, an annual study that observes the development of democracy in Latin America. Second only to Brazilians’, Chileans’ confidence in democracy dropped the most dramatically in the region: 11 percentage points since 2015. As of late 2016, public approval of Chile’s legislature is below 10 percent, while Bachelet’s rating has plummeted from a high of 56 percent in April 2014 to a record low of 18 percent in September 2016 (which rose slightly to 24 percent in late October as reported by Adimark surveys).

Criticism of Bachelet’s second term has been vocal from both the right and the left. While conservatives argue that many of her reform projects are too ambitious, the left considers them insufficient. Take education reform: the tax reform passed in 2014 sought to finance the extension of free tuition to the most economically vulnerable sector of students by raising taxes on corporate and capital income. The right argued that this would drive foreign investment out of Chile, while the student movement criticized the reform project for not tackling the fundamental issue of ending the profit motive in Chile’s education system. For the left, Bachelet’s re-election was predicated on the hope of progressively restructuring Chile’s institutions; many think she simply has not done enough.

The 2016 municipal elections were marked by controversy. Servel, which is tasked with overseeing the election and voter registry, instituted limits on the ability of candidates to reach out to voters. Air time for candidates was restricted and financial penalties were put in place to limit the use of campaign propaganda in certain public spaces. Servel’s restrictions, according to some critics, are partly to blame for the lower rates of participation. Then, less than a week before the election, Servel mistakenly reassigned half a million voters to the wrong localities. The government attempted to fix the error while Servel blamed the civil registry. However, days before the election, thousands of voters were still registered in municipalities where they didn’t reside, potentially affecting some of the most contested races. Evidently, reforms designed to improve the electoral system have flaws in both their design and implementation.

Two of the key races used to forecast presidential election outcomes are the cities of Santiago and Providencia, where the right-wing Chile Vamoscoalition won against a fragmented list of left-wing candidates. The victory of Evelyn Matthei, who lost the presidential bid in 2013, and of Felipe Alessandri, is seen by some as a positive sign for former president Sebastian Piñera ? who’s poised to be one of the leading contenders in the 2017 presidential elections.

Though Reuters and The Wall Street Journal are quick to characterize the election outcome as a decisive victory for the right, a closer look at the numbers shows that the two major right-wing parties experienced the largest proportional net losses in voters compared to the municipal elections just four years ago. The UDI, which was at the center of the Pentagate scandal, lost 15 percent of their voter base, while Pinera’s Renovación Nacional (RN) party lost 12 percent. In fact, every major party in the two coalitions, with the exception of the Communist Party, had a net loss in votes based on a comparison of Servel figures from 2012 and 2016. Bachelet’s Socialist Party lost over 160,000 votes (8 percent), the Christian Democratic Party lost over 350,000 votes (11 percent), and former president Ricardo Lagos’ Party for Democracy lost 90,000 votes (6 percent). Independent candidates as a whole were the only other bloc to gain significant support, going from 11 percent to 17 percent of the vote in 2016 as compared to 2012.

The right-wing coalition Chile Vamosnow holds 144 alcaldes (39 percent) while New Majority has 141 (38 percent). For concejales, Chile Vamos has 41 percent of the total council members and New Majority has 47 percent. Given the fact that there was a 65 percent abstention rate and no nominally outstanding win for the right, it’s quite difficult to resolutely declare a victory for either coalition bloc. More importantly, the net loss of actual votes for both the traditional left and right parties should be a cause of concern.

The most surprising outcome of the October 23 vote was Jorge Sharp’s victory in the port city of Valparaiso. A citizens’ primary nominated the then largely unknown figure (outside of university politics and activist circles) by a slim 38 votes, in an effort to break the duopoly of the establishment coalitions. In the three-way race Sharp, a 31-year-old lawyer, beat the right-wing incumbent, and a New Majority-backed candidate with over 50 percent of the votes.

Sharp’s candidacy was backed by a strong grassroots citizens’ movement organized under the name Pacto Urbano de La Matriz. His victory even led The Guardian to declare the fomenting of a “quiet revolution” by Chile’s independents. The other two remarkable gains came from the political blocs respectively led by Gabriel Boric and Giorgio Jackson, two former student activists and ? according to CADEM ? among the most positively assessed members of congress. Jackson’s mostly youth-led political movement, Revolución Democrática, nominated for the first time local candidates and won five concejalrepresentatives with over 60,000 votes. Similarly Boric’s Movimiento Autonomista, a voting bloc that Sharp also belongs to, won over 68,000 votes and 11 representatives. Sharp’s first year in Valparaiso will be closely watched as these independents begin forming a broad front to support candidates in 2017.

History may judge Bachelet’s greatest legacy to be electoral reform legislation passed in early 2016. The law eliminates the binomial model ? an electoral system inherited from the military years that entrenched the party duopoly ? and replaces it with a proportional representation model to be unveiled during the 2017 presidential and congressional elections. New restrictions on campaign finance will also eliminate corporate contributions. The modifications, although they didn’t apply to the 2016 municipal elections, will likely provide an additional boost to independent candidacies.

With these results in mind, the 2017 race is not assured for either coalition. The latest polls asking voters about the upcoming elections illustrate meager interest in all candidates currently positioning themselves to run. Piñera continues to be the leading candidate, but is polling with just 20 percent of the electorate. Alejandro Guillier, an independent “antiestablishment” candidate, has seen the greatest jump in poll numbers in just one month, from 5 percent to 15 percent. If either of the two traditional coalitions ultimately seeks to restore confidence in the democratic system, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for them to pay closer attention to the few political movements still able to energize disenchanted sectors of the population to organize and actually vote.

I traveled to Honduras recently to better understand how funding for the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) and for the Alliance for Prosperity Plan (APP) is being spent and accounted for by its implementers. Nearly half of the $750 million that the US government is channeling to the APP in fiscal year 2016 is specifically allocated to CARSI. These are historic levels of funding to the region, unparalleled since the early 1990s when the US was involved in Central America’s internal armed conflicts. Numerous reports indicate that military and police-perpetrated human rights abuses have increased since the creation of CARSI and there is no real evidence that CARSI has yielded minimal, if any, results.

In fact, very little is known about the efficacy or impact of these programs at all, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent. On September 7, I co-authored a report published by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) that shows that the only publicly available impact assessment study of a CARSI program, published in 2014 by Vanderbilt University’s Latin America Public Opinion Project (LAPOP), doesn’t conclusively demonstrate, as the study claims, that the CARSI program has had positive results  (LAPOP has published a critique of this report, and CEPR staff are now preparing a response to this critique).

The specific CARSI program that the LAPOP study assesses is a community-based violence and crime prevention program that is implemented by the US Agency for International Aid (USAID) and its partners in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama. In late 2014 a USAID official told Congress that “We have evidence that these kinds of programs are working, and evidence is crucial so we can build on what really works.” Since there is no hard evidence that the CARSI/USAID program is working  in the LAPOP study or elsewhere  I decided to have a closer look at the program on the ground in Honduras, a country I have worked in for over a decade, and see for myself.

Early on a Thursday morning in mid-August, I went on a ride-along with a USAID staff member in the Democracy and Governance program. In a chauffeured, new model Chevy Tahoe, I rode to the Comayagüela barrio, about a 20-minute ride outside of downtown Tegucigalpa. When we arrived, my escort rolled down the windows and took off his sunglasses, explaining that this helped people in the neighborhood see and trust them. Comayagüela, he informed me, is the most dangerous neighborhood in Tegucigalpa and we were driving into a territory heavily controlled and monitored by rival gangs, primarily the MS-13 and the Dieciocho (18), both of which originated in Los Angeles and then spread to Central America with the help of the US government’s deportation policies. The outreach center we were going to tour is located at the invisible gang border. That’s why, he told me, USAID and Creative Associates, a private, for-profit development contractor, are trying to build another outreach center on the other side of this neighborhood, so the kids who can’t cross the gang borders still have access to an outreach center.

The outreach center is beautiful, situated on the terrace of a local Catholic church that donated the space for the project. It is clearly a new building the white and blue paint still fresh and glowing in the morning sun. Latin Pop music is playing at dance party volume in the outdoor recreation area where volunteers in yellow Por Mi Barrio t-shirts are milling about, and a few youth in school uniforms are also wandering around. A petite woman walks out to meet us, the director and only paid employee of the outreach center. I am shown all around the shiny building  although I am candidly told by the Creative Associates representative who works directly with the outreach center on programming that it is the only outreach center that looks like this. The other buildings are much more humble he tells me, and most do not have paid staff.

I dutifully nod while the young, overworked directora shows us the recreation room, the classrooms (where children were writing in their “values” workbooks), and the public gym where they have weight machines and hold Zumba classes. The director explains that they’ve established the gym as a way to make money to support the outreach center  people pay for Zumba classes and trainers and instructors volunteer their time to teach them. This structure begs many questions: if this is one of the key strategies by which USAID and the APP programs claim they are supplanting and disrupting violence and gang activity, then why is there not more paid staff, and why is the outreach center not better funded? Where is the $346 million going? But there is no time to ask this question; there are more rooms to see.

My USAID escort and the Creative Associates staffer have repeatedly tried to reassure me, “the center makes such a big difference.” And tell me how great it is for the kids to have a safe place to come and play and learn. Of the latter I have no doubt. Having spent over a decade in Honduras, where it is estimated that 20 percent of the population has experienced severe trauma, I know the value of recreation and safe spaces for young Hondurans, but is this project really reducing violence and crime in the neighborhood?

Once in the room that houses the director’s desk and some paperwork and classroom space where some first-aid and very basic community nursing is taught by yet another volunteer, it is finally time to ask a question. I keep it very simple. I want to know how the center, and USAID and Creative Associates  the agency funding this project and the implementing partner, respectively  are determining the impact of the outreach center on violence and gang activity in the community. Do people get jobs with the training they receive? Is there any monitoring and evaluation (M&E as it is called in development parlance) or reports that show the effects of this outreach center program on violence and crime and gang activity? For example, are centers like this one tracking whether youth return to the street, whether they find employment (which assumes it’s available and in 2014 unemployment for youth under 30 in Honduras was as high as 41 percent), and whether they join or leave gangs?

The director’s eyes go wide and her lips tighten in a grimace, bracing for the potential of another burdensome bureaucratic responsibility to manage alone. Unfazed, my upbeat escort tells me, unequivocally and without a hint of irony that they “do not have monitoring and evaluation,” but that they “hope to have some in the next couple of years or so.” These programs are among the most extensively funded foreign security and development since the war-time era in the region. The State Department, USAID, and other CARSI implementers are under scrutiny to demonstrate efficacy, and not only are there no reports or evidence to date, but there aren’t even mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation. How do they know the programs are working? Without a systematic evaluation there is simply no way to know.

I looked for reports. I found one that the Honduran Youth Alliance (AJH), USAID, and Creative Associates produced in January of 2014. It includes a few quotes from youth who were apparently in the Por Mi Barrio program in La Ceiba at the time, but no program details and no assessments. It is a long brochure with poignant quotes from pre-teens that are intended to pull heartstrings. It also includes the methodology and objectives for implementing the Por Mi Barrio program, which is nice, but it’s not evidence that the programs are working nor does it include evaluation mechanisms.  However, since the initiation of the first Por Mi Barrio outreach center in 2009, there are no data or statistics that show that the Outreach Centers are meeting the objectives of CARSI and APP initiatives.

There is no doubt that there is a strident public relations campaign to make it seem as though the CARSI/USAID program has merit and deserves more funding when there is no evidence (and certainly not publicly available evidence) to support such claims. This should be concerning to US lawmakers and their US constituents, not only because incredible amounts of taxpayer funds are being directed toward Central America, but also because that assistance may be doing more harm than good.

Put simply, there is no data that supports the claims of State Department officials or USAID that the interventions being implemented in Honduras, or in the Northern Triangle in general, are having a positive (or any) effect. Congress should demand rigorous, independent evaluations that demonstrate  with certainty  that these interventions are having a significant impact.

I traveled to Honduras recently to better understand how funding for the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) and for the Alliance for Prosperity Plan (APP) is being spent and accounted for by its implementers. Nearly half of the $750 million that the US government is channeling to the APP in fiscal year 2016 is specifically allocated to CARSI. These are historic levels of funding to the region, unparalleled since the early 1990s when the US was involved in Central America’s internal armed conflicts. Numerous reports indicate that military and police-perpetrated human rights abuses have increased since the creation of CARSI and there is no real evidence that CARSI has yielded minimal, if any, results.

In fact, very little is known about the efficacy or impact of these programs at all, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent. On September 7, I co-authored a report published by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) that shows that the only publicly available impact assessment study of a CARSI program, published in 2014 by Vanderbilt University’s Latin America Public Opinion Project (LAPOP), doesn’t conclusively demonstrate, as the study claims, that the CARSI program has had positive results  (LAPOP has published a critique of this report, and CEPR staff are now preparing a response to this critique).

The specific CARSI program that the LAPOP study assesses is a community-based violence and crime prevention program that is implemented by the US Agency for International Aid (USAID) and its partners in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama. In late 2014 a USAID official told Congress that “We have evidence that these kinds of programs are working, and evidence is crucial so we can build on what really works.” Since there is no hard evidence that the CARSI/USAID program is working  in the LAPOP study or elsewhere  I decided to have a closer look at the program on the ground in Honduras, a country I have worked in for over a decade, and see for myself.

Early on a Thursday morning in mid-August, I went on a ride-along with a USAID staff member in the Democracy and Governance program. In a chauffeured, new model Chevy Tahoe, I rode to the Comayagüela barrio, about a 20-minute ride outside of downtown Tegucigalpa. When we arrived, my escort rolled down the windows and took off his sunglasses, explaining that this helped people in the neighborhood see and trust them. Comayagüela, he informed me, is the most dangerous neighborhood in Tegucigalpa and we were driving into a territory heavily controlled and monitored by rival gangs, primarily the MS-13 and the Dieciocho (18), both of which originated in Los Angeles and then spread to Central America with the help of the US government’s deportation policies. The outreach center we were going to tour is located at the invisible gang border. That’s why, he told me, USAID and Creative Associates, a private, for-profit development contractor, are trying to build another outreach center on the other side of this neighborhood, so the kids who can’t cross the gang borders still have access to an outreach center.

The outreach center is beautiful, situated on the terrace of a local Catholic church that donated the space for the project. It is clearly a new building the white and blue paint still fresh and glowing in the morning sun. Latin Pop music is playing at dance party volume in the outdoor recreation area where volunteers in yellow Por Mi Barrio t-shirts are milling about, and a few youth in school uniforms are also wandering around. A petite woman walks out to meet us, the director and only paid employee of the outreach center. I am shown all around the shiny building  although I am candidly told by the Creative Associates representative who works directly with the outreach center on programming that it is the only outreach center that looks like this. The other buildings are much more humble he tells me, and most do not have paid staff.

I dutifully nod while the young, overworked directora shows us the recreation room, the classrooms (where children were writing in their “values” workbooks), and the public gym where they have weight machines and hold Zumba classes. The director explains that they’ve established the gym as a way to make money to support the outreach center  people pay for Zumba classes and trainers and instructors volunteer their time to teach them. This structure begs many questions: if this is one of the key strategies by which USAID and the APP programs claim they are supplanting and disrupting violence and gang activity, then why is there not more paid staff, and why is the outreach center not better funded? Where is the $346 million going? But there is no time to ask this question; there are more rooms to see.

My USAID escort and the Creative Associates staffer have repeatedly tried to reassure me, “the center makes such a big difference.” And tell me how great it is for the kids to have a safe place to come and play and learn. Of the latter I have no doubt. Having spent over a decade in Honduras, where it is estimated that 20 percent of the population has experienced severe trauma, I know the value of recreation and safe spaces for young Hondurans, but is this project really reducing violence and crime in the neighborhood?

Once in the room that houses the director’s desk and some paperwork and classroom space where some first-aid and very basic community nursing is taught by yet another volunteer, it is finally time to ask a question. I keep it very simple. I want to know how the center, and USAID and Creative Associates  the agency funding this project and the implementing partner, respectively  are determining the impact of the outreach center on violence and gang activity in the community. Do people get jobs with the training they receive? Is there any monitoring and evaluation (M&E as it is called in development parlance) or reports that show the effects of this outreach center program on violence and crime and gang activity? For example, are centers like this one tracking whether youth return to the street, whether they find employment (which assumes it’s available and in 2014 unemployment for youth under 30 in Honduras was as high as 41 percent), and whether they join or leave gangs?

The director’s eyes go wide and her lips tighten in a grimace, bracing for the potential of another burdensome bureaucratic responsibility to manage alone. Unfazed, my upbeat escort tells me, unequivocally and without a hint of irony that they “do not have monitoring and evaluation,” but that they “hope to have some in the next couple of years or so.” These programs are among the most extensively funded foreign security and development since the war-time era in the region. The State Department, USAID, and other CARSI implementers are under scrutiny to demonstrate efficacy, and not only are there no reports or evidence to date, but there aren’t even mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation. How do they know the programs are working? Without a systematic evaluation there is simply no way to know.

I looked for reports. I found one that the Honduran Youth Alliance (AJH), USAID, and Creative Associates produced in January of 2014. It includes a few quotes from youth who were apparently in the Por Mi Barrio program in La Ceiba at the time, but no program details and no assessments. It is a long brochure with poignant quotes from pre-teens that are intended to pull heartstrings. It also includes the methodology and objectives for implementing the Por Mi Barrio program, which is nice, but it’s not evidence that the programs are working nor does it include evaluation mechanisms.  However, since the initiation of the first Por Mi Barrio outreach center in 2009, there are no data or statistics that show that the Outreach Centers are meeting the objectives of CARSI and APP initiatives.

There is no doubt that there is a strident public relations campaign to make it seem as though the CARSI/USAID program has merit and deserves more funding when there is no evidence (and certainly not publicly available evidence) to support such claims. This should be concerning to US lawmakers and their US constituents, not only because incredible amounts of taxpayer funds are being directed toward Central America, but also because that assistance may be doing more harm than good.

Put simply, there is no data that supports the claims of State Department officials or USAID that the interventions being implemented in Honduras, or in the Northern Triangle in general, are having a positive (or any) effect. Congress should demand rigorous, independent evaluations that demonstrate  with certainty  that these interventions are having a significant impact.

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