Venezuela Is Starving and Still Maduro Clings to Power

Nicolás Maduro
Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro delivers a speech (Palacio de Miraflores/Miguel Angulo)

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”

Leftists Denounce “Coup” Against Vote-Rigging Autocrat in Bolivia

Let’s take a break from the right-wing apologists of a would-be autocrat in the United States to check in with the left-wing apologists of an actual autocrat in Bolivia.

In the face of mass protests, the Bolivarian military has forced the left-wing populist Evo Morales to step down.

Morales served an unconstitutional third term as president from 2014 to 2019. He called and lost a referendum in 2016 on whether he should stand for a fourth term, but the Supreme Court canceled that result, arguing that “American imperialism” had influenced the outcome.

In his latest bid for reelection, observers from the Organization of American States found clear manipulations, including a 24-hour freeze in the vote count, before which Morales was losing and after which he suddenly won.

You wouldn’t know it from reading British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders or New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading light of the American new left, who have all denounced Morales’ removal as a “coup” and are calling for “free and fair elections” — no matter that’s the very thing Morales wouldn’t allow. Read more “Leftists Denounce “Coup” Against Vote-Rigging Autocrat in Bolivia”

Macri’s Failure Returns Peronists to Power in Argentina

Presidents Michel Temer of Brazil and Mauricio Macri of Argentina inspect an honor guard in Brasília, February 7, 2017
Presidents Michel Temer of Brazil and Mauricio Macri of Argentina inspect an honor guard in Brasília, February 7, 2017 (Carolina Antunes)

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

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela visits Quito, Ecuador, September 21, 2015
President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela visits Quito, Ecuador, September 21, 2015 (Prensa Miraflores)

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?

Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador gives a news conference, October 31
Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador gives a news conference, October 31 (Sitio Oficial de Andrés Manuel López Obrador)

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?

Brazil's president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, stands while the national anthem plays in the National Congress in Brasília, November 6
Brazil’s president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, stands while the national anthem plays in the National Congress in Brasília, November 6 (Agência Senado/Pedro França)

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

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos greets his successor, Iván Duque, in Bogotá, June 21
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos greets his successor, Iván Duque, in Bogotá, June 21 (Facebook)

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?

View of the National Capitol Building in Havana, Cuba, June 8, 2011
View of the National Capitol Building in Havana, Cuba, June 8, 2011 (Wikimedia Commons/Héctor Valdés Domínguez)

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?”

Dutch Caribbean Caught Up in ConocoPhillips-Venezuela Oil Dispute

A cruise ship moored in Willemstad, Curaçao
A cruise ship moored in Willemstad, Curaçao (Shutterstock/Galina Savina)

The Dutch Caribbean have been caught up in a legal dispute between the American oil company ConocoPhillips and the government of Venezuela.

A judge has allowed Conoco to seize Venezuelan-owned and -operated refineries on the islands in order to collect $2 billion in compensation awarded by the International Chamber of Commerce for the 2007 nationalization of Conoco assets in the socialist-run country.

The seizure poses a “potential crisis” to the economy of Curaçao, Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath has told Reuters. The Isla refinery, which processes 335,000 barrels of oil per day, accounts for a tenth of the island’s economy. Read more “Dutch Caribbean Caught Up in ConocoPhillips-Venezuela Oil Dispute”