Wins for the Right and Left in Two Important Latin American Elections

Two important elections happened in Latin America over the weekend, although the selection of Porfirio Lobo as the new Honduran president has been getting most of the attention.

In what is generally seen as a victory for the right and Honduran elites, Lobo's election has received mixed reactions from other Western Hemisphere countries. The United States has defended the election, saying Hondurans had the right to choose their own leader. But Brazilian leader Lula da Silva warned that America's acceptance of the election could serve to downplay the severity of the turmoil the country has faced in recent months and whitewash the fact that Honduras suffered through Latin America's first military coup in 20 years over the summer. Either way, it's America's support that matters most to the new Honduran president. Porfirio Lobo, 61, a conservative rancher and member of the National party, will no doubt continue to rely heavily on trade deals and remittances from the United States to shore up the Honduran economy. Ousted president Manuel Zelaya has refused to recognize the election, saying that less than 30 percent of the countries eligible voters turned out and chastising American complacency. "The United States made a mistake," Zelaya said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press, "If they are democrats in their country, they should be democrats in Latin America."

Uruguay, on the other hand, saw a victory for the left as Jose Mujica, 74, a former guerilla fighter, won the presidential election. Mujica is a farmer, former agriculture minister and senator and represents the Broad Front coalition, a party many Uruguayans credit for pulling the economy out of a free fall earlier this year. Brazilian president Lula da Silva also played a key role in this election, representing a moderate leftist view that Mujica says he intends to emulate. Mujica has pledged to follow in the footsteps of outgoing President Tabare Vazquez, Uruguay's first elected socialist leader. "It's going to be the same dog, but with a different collar," Mujica was quoted as saying throughout the campaign.