Venezuela Is a Geopolitical Tinderbox

Presidents Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela and Vladimir Putin of Russia shake hands at the Kremlin in Moscow, July 2, 2013
Presidents Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela and Vladimir Putin of Russia shake hands at the Kremlin in Moscow, July 2, 2013 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

Surges of protests against a deeply unpopular government have catapulted Venezuela from back-burner regional crisis to a hemispheric one. It’s only a Russian presidential visit away from becoming the world’s next geopolitical hot spot.

Medical supplies are running short, opposition leaders are calling for nationwide boycotts and now the Americans are rousing themselves to begin a sanctions regime against the beleaguered Maduro government.

It’s quite the fall from grace. From 2004 until 2013, Venezuela’s economy rocketed upward, bringing a measure of prosperity to a country long accustomed to hardship. It appeared, in those heady days, that Hugo Chávez, the country’s authoritarian ruler, could bring about his socialist Bolivarian Revolution and economic prosperity. For the Latin American left, Venezuela was proof that one did not have to conform to the neoliberal capitalism of the United States to be successful.

Alas, since 2013, the economy has slid further and further while inflation has hammered the country’s currency to the point of worthlessness.

With America now poking its nose directly into Venezuelan affairs, with the opposition building a shadow government and with the Russians trying to shore up Nicolás Maduro’s government through increasingly generous aid shipments, the country has all the ingredients of a major geopolitical crisis.

The Americans could find themselves sucked into an ever-expanding role in managing the Maduro regime; the opposition could give up on peaceful politics altogether and embark on an armed struggle; an opportunistic Vladimir Putin might wedge Russian power into South America in hopes of throwing the Americans off balance in Europe. Read more

Dutch Relieved After Mainstream Parties Win Curaçao Election

The old harbor of Willemstad, Curaçao seen from a bus, December 24, 2007
The old harbor of Willemstad, Curaçao seen from a bus, December 24, 2007 (Gail Frederick)

Former prime minister Gerrit Schotte has lost the election on Curaçao, avoiding a standoff with the European Netherlands, which is loath to work with the corrupt politician.

Schotte’s populist Movement for the Future of Curaçao (MFK) gained one seat in the island’s legislature on Friday, winning five seats altogether, but the mainstream parties did better.

The liberal Party for the Restructured Antilles (PAR) and the social democratic Partido MAN won a majority between them. They can now govern alone, although they may add one or two small parties to round out a coalition. Read more

Venezuela Lurches Toward Authoritarianism

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela waves at crowds during an Independence Day parade, July 5, 2016
President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela waves at crowds during an Independence Day parade, July 5, 2016 (Prensa Presidencial/Yoset Montes)

Venezuela has plummeted to new depths. In an act of blatant disregard of the separation of powers, the Supreme Court has stripped the opposition-controlled National Assembly of its lawmaking power and revoked immunity from all assembly members after accusing parliamentarians of “contempt”.

This latest step toward authoritarianism was denounced as a “coup” and “a final blow to democracy” — not just by opposition parties, but by the international community and even some within the government (the state attorney general). Read more

Netherlands Intervenes in Curaçao to Make Sure Elections Proceed

Dutch foreign affairs minister Bert Koenders speaks with Lucille George-Wout, the governor of Curaçao, in The Hague, September 24, 2015
Dutch foreign affairs minister Bert Koenders speaks with Lucille George-Wout, the governor of Curaçao, in The Hague, September 24, 2015 (Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken)

The Dutch government has given extraordinary powers to the governor of Curaçao to allow elections to go forward on the island despite opposition from its ruling parties.

Lucille George-Wout, who nominally represents the Dutch king, has been given authority over public services to make sure the elections can proceed.

It is the first time the Netherlands has intervened so overtly in the politics of the Caribbean island since it became self-governing in 1954. Read more

Trump Could Bring Enemies in South America Closer Together

Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro chairs the General Assembly of the Organization of American States in Cochabamba, Bolivia, June 4, 2012
Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro chairs the General Assembly of the Organization of American States in Cochabamba, Bolivia, June 4, 2012 (OAS/Juan Manuel Herrera)

The alliance between Cuba and Venezuela has lost prominence in recent years as the former normalized its diplomatic relations with the United States while the latter doubled down on a self-described anti-imperialist policy.

Now Donald Trump’s presidency threatens to bring the two countries closer together again. Read more

Political Victory for Temer During Anxious Times for Brazil

President Michel Temer of Brazil gives a speech in Brasília, December 13
President Michel Temer of Brazil gives a speech in Brasília, December 13 (Palácio do Planalto/Marcos Corrêa)

Brazil’s president, Michel Temer, scored a major political victory last week when Congress passed a constitutional amendment that limits public spending for the next twenty years.

This was no small feat, given that 63 percent of Brazilians, according to one recent poll, want Temer out. Read more

The Rational Person’s Guide to Fidel Castro

Cuban leader Fidel Castro smokes a cigar in his office in Havana, circa 1977
Cuban leader Fidel Castro smokes a cigar in his office in Havana, circa 1977 (Getty Images/David Hume Kennerly)

There are few leaders who inspire the kind of irrational passion that surrounds the recently-deceased Fidel Castro. He is a hero and a villain and to have an opinion on him so often forces you to choose between the two.

But there is another way to judge leadership. To understand Castro’s true historical legacy, we should think of him geopolitically. Read more