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
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
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
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
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
Dutch Caribbean Caught Up in ConocoPhillips-Venezuela Oil Dispute
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