In the midst of incoming and established left-leaning politicians in the Latin America region comes a new winner who bucks the trend.  Using words such as tycoon, magnate, self-styled millionaire, etc. reporters from all the major and not-so-major news services brought out words they had long since mothballed in describing the victory of Ricardo Martinelli, a victory not as spectacular as that of Mine That Bird but no less convincing, having pulled steadily ahead of his rival Balbina Herrera during the last several weeks to win by a wide margin.  Pundits throughout the region are second guessing the reasons for either his victory or her loss, citing his use of the campaign slogans promising change to the country.  No doubt the sagging economy didn't help the ruling RDP party, nor the infighting that took place during their primary campaign.  The election was a solid exercise in democracy, with nary a word about fraud, a far cry from the simulacrum that took place across the sea in the land of Chavez, where results are still not forthcoming.

Martinelli will have five years starting in July to institute his change policies, although it appears he will not have the majority in the 71-seat Congress to get the job done.  Heading his list is the free trade agreement with the U.S., followed by changing the tax laws and national investment in housing and transportation systems.  This does not include the $5+ billion upgrade of the Canal, now underway and slated to be completed by the end of his term.  He certainly will be keeping tabs on the project, inasmuch as he was the former chairman of the Panama Canal Authority.

Next up in presidential election stakes is Honduras, where the primaries have long since decided the two contenders, Pepe Lobo and Mauricio Villeda, neither of whom is an incumbent.  Since the general election is in late November, there is still plenty of time to jockey for position, and as we saw last weekend, before the ¾ milepost position means nothing.  Already started, expect to hear plenty more speeches promising cambios.


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