From Mexico To Venezuela, A Preview Of This Year’s *Other American Elections

Analysis: Elections are scheduled this year in the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Venezuela. In Mexico, the centrist PRI is favored to regain control of the government. In Venezuela, Chávez is looking to hang on to power – health permitting.

Enrique Peña Nieto, Mexico's front-runner for the 2012 presidential elections (World Economic Forum)
Enrique Peña Nieto, Mexico's front-runner for the 2012 presidential elections (World Economic Forum)

While the Western hemisphere remains caught up in the media frenzy surrounding elections in the United States, 2012 is an important election year throughout the Americas, both North and South. Venezuala, where President Hugo Chávez will try to extend his already 13-year-long grip on power, is among the many countries where candidates are campaigning for the presidency.

The region's first presidential contest occurs in the Dominican Republic, where polls favor Danilo Medina of the governing Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (PLD). Trailing him is ex-president Hipólito Mejías who led the island nation from 2000-2004 and is now running under the slogan "Llegó papá" (Daddy's home). The election is set to take place May 20.

Exactly six weeks later, Mexico – Latin America's second most populous country – will celebrate its own presidential election. Leading at this point is the centrist Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), which held power in Mexico for 70 years before losing the 2000 election to the governing Partido Acción Nacional (PAN).

Last month the PRI selected Enrique Peña Nieto, the governor of the state of Mexico, as its presidential candidate. The more conservative PAN, which is running second in the polls, has yet to choose a candidate. Running a distant third is Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the left-wing Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD). López Obrador narrowly lost Mexico's last – and much disputed – presidential election to Felipe Calderón. Central campaign issues are expected to be Mexico's ongoing war on drugs, citizen security and economic reforms.

Six more years of Chávez?

Venezuelans go to the polls Sunday, Oct. 7. President Chávez, first elected in 1999, is favored to win despite his less-than-transparent battle with cancer. Last year the illness forced Chávez to spend several weeks in Cuba, where he received treatment. Venezuela's opposition will choose a single candidate via a primary scheduled for Feb. 12.

The front-runner, according to polls, is Henrique Capriles, governor of the state of Miranda. His challengers include the governor of Zulia, Pablo Pérez; current Deputy María Corina Machado; former ambassador Diego Arria; and left-wing leader Pablo Medina.

Should Chávez win, Venezuela will continue to have a personalist government that doesn't believe in the balance of powers. In Mexico, barring a sudden change of events, a party that held power for more than half a century will once again take the reigns of government. The country's tenuous status as one of the world's largest democracies will depend, in other words, on how the PRI handles that return to power.

Read more from AméricaEconomía in Spanish

Photo - World Economic Forum

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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