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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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A Refuge From China's Rat Race: The Young People Flocking To Buddhist Monasteries

Unemployment, stress in the workplace, economic difficulties: more and more young Chinese graduates are flocking to monasteries to find "another school of life."

Photograph of a girl praying at a temple during Chinese Lunar New Year. She is burning incense.

Feb 20, 2015 - Huaibei, China - Chinese worshippers pray at a temple during the Lunar New Yeat

Frédéric Schaeffer

JIAXING — It's already dawn at Xianghai Temple when Lin, 26, goes to the Hall of 10,000 Buddhas for the 5:30 a.m. prayer.

Still half-asleep, the young woman joins the monks in chanting mantras and reciting sacred texts for an hour. Kneeling, she bows three times to Vairocana, also known as the Great Sun Buddha, who dominates the 42-meter-high hall representing the cosmos.

Before grabbing a vegetarian breakfast in the adjacent refectory, monks and devotees chant around the hall to the sound of drums and gongs.

"I resigned last October from the e-commerce company where I had been working for the past two years in Nanjing, and joined the temple in January, where I am now a volunteer in residence," explains the young woman, soberly dressed in black pants and a cream linen jacket.

Located in the city of Jiaxing, over a hundred kilometers from Shanghai, in eastern China, the Xianghai temple is home to some 20 permanent volunteers.

Unlike Lin, most of them only stay for a couple days or a few weeks. But for Lin, who spends most of her free time studying Buddhist texts in the temple library, the change in her life has been radical. "I used to do the same job every day, sometimes until very late at night, writing all kinds of reports for my boss. I was exhausted physically and mentally. I felt my life had no meaning," she says.

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