Venezuela Is Starving and Still Maduro Clings to Power

Nicolás Maduro is still president of Venezuela. That may not sound like news, but in the six years he has been in power, he has so poorly managed the economy, with increasingly authoritarian measures, that GDP has shrunk 60 percent, inflation has reached an astronomical 10 million percent, once forgotten diseases have returned, 4.5 million Venezuelans have fled the country and 90 percent of the remaining population lives in poverty. It’s the worst economic collapse outside of a civil war.

Little wonder mass protests have been a recurrent aspect of Maduro’s administration, but so far all attempts to remove him have failed.

Maduro only won reelection in 2018 after arresting opposition presidential candidates, sidelining the opposition-controlled legislature and most likely rigging the vote.

In January, Juan Guaidó, a social democrat and president of the National Assembly, took the extraordinary step of invoking Article 233 of the Constitution to declare himself interim president and call for early elections. Read more “Venezuela Is Starving and Still Maduro Clings to Power”

Macri’s Failure Returns Peronists to Power in Argentina

Argentinian Congress Buenos Aires
Palace of the Argentine National Congress in Buenos Aires (Unsplash/Nestor Barbitta)

Mauricio Macri will vacate the presidency of Argentina next month after a disappointing term in office and a first-round defeat to Peronist candidate Alberto Fernández.

Fernández won by bringing the controversial former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner into the fold as vice president to help unite the moderate and leftist strands in his party. That unity will be tested by a severe economic crisis. Read more “Macri’s Failure Returns Peronists to Power in Argentina”

Millions Flee Venezuela, But Maduro Is Going Nowhere

Twenty years have passed since Hugo Chavez’ Bolivarian Revolution began in Venezuela. Although the first decade halved unemployment and brought poverty levels down to 27 percent, under President Nicolás Maduro there has been a dramatic economic, political and social decline.

Inflation has skyrocketed and is expected to reach 1,000,000 percent this year. Shortages of basic goods have resulted in widespread malnutrition. The outbreak of previously forgotten diseases and violence has reached unprecedented levels. 73 lives are lost per day.

This, combined with a political system that has barred and arrested opposition presidential candidates, sidelined an opposition-dominated legislature and last year carried out an election marred by an opposition boycott and claims of vote-rigging, has led to an exodus of almost 10 percent of Venezuela’s 30 million population. 90 percent of those who remain live in poverty.

With such a parlous state of affairs, how has Maduro kept the show on the road?

And why haven’t Venezuela’s neighbors, who are sheltering most of its refugees, acted to end the misery? Read more “Millions Flee Venezuela, But Maduro Is Going Nowhere”

AMLO and Trump: Useful Scapegoats or Unlikely Allies?

Mexico’s new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), looks like the perfect adversary for Donald Trump. The American represents the financial elites and inequality AMLO has railed against his entire career whereas he himself embodies the hopes of Mexico’s poorest, many of whom have sought a better life in the United States — and who have been disparaged by Trump as criminals and rapists.

But the two leaders also share traits: a populist style, policy light on detail and nostalgia for a bygone era.

The two have avoided a confrontation on trade. Immigration and security provide more opportunities for compromise — but could just as easily cause the relationship to come unstuck. Read more “AMLO and Trump: Useful Scapegoats or Unlikely Allies?”

Is Brazil’s Bolsonaro the Trump of the Tropics?

Jair Bolsonaro
Jair Bolsonaro makes a speech in the Chamber of Deputies of Brazil, September 14, 2016 (Agência Brasil/Marcelo Camargo)

Brazil is the latest country to lurch toward right-wing nationalism. When Jair Bolsonaro resoundingly defeated his left-wing opponent, Fernando Haddad, in the country’s presidential election last month, news whirled around the world reporting this was Brazil’s Donald Trump.

Bolsonaro is certainly keen to be Trump’s partner in Latin America. But is the comparison apt? And is it helpful to view each new iteration of right-wing nationalism through the Trump prism? Read more “Is Brazil’s Bolsonaro the Trump of the Tropics?”

Stakes High for Colombia’s Presidential Novice

Last month, 41 year-old Iván Duque was elected as Colombia’s youngest president ever with the largest vote in the country’s history.

Turnout, at 53 percent, was the highest since 1998. The elections came on the heels of an historic peace deal with the far-left Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), ending half a century of conflict. Read more “Stakes High for Colombia’s Presidential Novice”

With the Castros Gone, Is Change Afoot in Cuba?

Havana Cuba
Skyline of Havana, Cuba (iStock/Spooh)

The appointment of a new president in Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, sixty years after the island’s socialist revolution, feels like a turning point.

Once anointed by the 605-strong National Assembly as Cuba’s first non-Castro president in decades, Díaz-Canel vowed to modernize the economy and make government more responsive to its people.

What does the change mean in practice?

Not having a Castro, neither Fidel (1976-08) nor Raúl (2008-18), as leader carries with it great symbolism for sure. For the first time in many years, the powerful roles of president and head of the Communist Party are no longer combined. (Raúl remains party leader for three years.) But the Castro years weren’t quite as monolithic as they are sometimes portrayed and the next few years are unlikely to see a turnaround. Read more “With the Castros Gone, Is Change Afoot in Cuba?”

What You Need to Know About the Election in Mexico

Mexico’s general election on July 1 will involve roughly 3,400 new elected officials taking office and $2 billion in campaign finance. It has been dubbed the biggest election in Mexican history.

It is important not only in terms of scale, but in terms of its new rules. For the first time, the ban on reelection does not apply and independent candidates can run.

This heightened capacity for change coincides with an electorate moving from apathy toward anger. Last year, only 18 percent of Mexicans told pollsters they were satisfied with their democracy, down from 41 percent in 2016. Institutional confidence is at a nadir.

Concerns about violence and insecurity related to drug cartels and organized crime are now coupled with deep frustrations about corruption and impunity as well as lopsided relations with the United States. Read more “What You Need to Know About the Election in Mexico”

Piñera Back, But Chileans Need Convincing

Sebastián Piñera unsurprisingly won back Chile’s presidency last week, defeating the governing party’s Alejandro Guillier in a runoff.

Piñera last ruled the country from 2010 to 2014 but was constitutionally barred from serving a consecutive second term.

What was surprising was the scale of his victory following a weak performance in the first voting round, where left-wing candidates got a combined 55 percent of the votes. Read more “Piñera Back, But Chileans Need Convincing”