War of the Orchids – Political power struggles within Venezuela & US interests

On January the 10th, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was sworn in as President of Venezuela for a second time despite claims the 2018 election was illegitimate.

One day later on the 11th, The Venezuela National Assembly declared the election to be invalid and proclaimed their leader Juan Guaidó as President.

Whilst Maduro still claims power Guaidó is still contesting it.

Outside Venezuela, a number of countries have announced support for Guaidó. According to Reuters, Paraguay has cut political ties with Venezuela after Manduri was sworn in for a second term, Peru has withdrawn the country’s diplomats in objection, Brazil has issued support for Guaidó. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the United States has labeled Maduro’s claim as “illegitimate” and have voiced official support for protestors.

“On behalf of President Donald Trump and all the American people, let me express the unwavering support of the United States as you, the people of Venezuela, raise your voices in a call for freedom.”

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence

United States interests in Venezuela:

Early into the Trump’s presidency, Maduro and his party blamed the United States and Trump for the issues plaguing Venezuela. Therefore the United States and Donald Trump have personal bones to pick with Maduro.

In 2018 (January – October), the United States imported between 13,000 and 21,000 barrels of oil and petroleum. Whilst this is down from previous years as the United States has focused on producing their own oil (reaching 11 million barrels per day last year), the United States still consumes almost 20 million barrels per day meaning they still have a significant interest in Venezuela and it’s stability.

Concerns surrounding refugees and migration has also become an overwhelming issue for the Trump administration. With Trump cracking down on migration, refugees, and asylum seekers hoping to escape their homelands and cross the border; Increased or continued instability within Venezuela will force more to leave in the future. According to the UN Refugee Agency and the UN Migration Agency, the total number of Venezuelan migrants and asylum seekers has now reached 3 million. And whilst the majority have been hosted by neighbouring countries, thousands still make the long journey up to the United States border each year.

Now Maduro has ordered the departure of US diplomats from the country in consequence for the country’s support of his opposition, however, according to the Washington Post, it may be the military that determines whether or Maduro retains control of the country. Whilst the Venezuelan armed forces have publically declared support for Maduro, some suspect internal/private uncertainty due to small actions such as noticeable restraint shown towards both Guaidó and the civilian protests.

The election of Jair Bolsonaro

With almost all of the vote reported, Jair Messias Bolsonaro from The Social Liberal Party will almost certainly be Brazil’s next president.

But who is this new world leader? And why has the gaze of the entire world (particularly western nations) fallen upon Brazil?

The man himself

Jair Messias Bolsonaro born in 1955 is a politician and former military officer. Overtly conservative and controversial, Bolsonaro has drawn both criticism and praise nationally and internationally.

As a campaign, he promoted pro-market and liberal economic policy which would allow individuals more say in decisions rather than having them made by the government and other organisations. As well as calling for greater relationships with the United States and Israel.

However, Bolsonaro has not escaped controversy. In the #MeToo era Bolsonaro once told congresswomen Maria do Rosario “I wouldn’t rape you because you don’t deserve it,” going on to call her ugly. Bolsonaro has also made controversial negative comments regarding homosexuality (which is now accepted in over 70 countries worldwide), as well as both the treatment of political opponents and suspected criminals.

The country 

Brazil recently endured an economic crisis from 2014 to 2016 which resulted in the loss of 72,000 truckers’ jobs and the impeachment of their president at the time. Since then Brazil has struggled with petrol shortages having a domino effect upon the production and exports industries.

This has left a stain of political mistrust within Brazil, visible as the out-going Brazilian president (Michel Temer) produced an approval rating of 5%.

To a country emerging from crisis, national-minded Bolsonaro may appear as a light in the darkness.

The Western world

The 2018 Brazilian election and Bolsonaro as a candidate have not escaped the eye of the western world. His ideology and behaviour have drawn comparisons to United States President, Donald Trump,  labels of ‘far-right’ given, and fears of fascism voiced.

For the Western world, the election of Jair Bolsonaro may develop feelings of fear and uncertainty for the future as right-wing ideology and conservatism appears to be on the rise in western nations. However, in contrast, over 50% of Brazil hopes that Jair Bolsonaro will lead them out of the lingering uncertainty and crisis.

 

Useful sources: 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/27/gay-relationships-still-criminalised-countries-report

https://theslot.jezebel.com/far-right-candidate-who-once-said-a-congresswoman-was-t-1830060394

https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/poder/2017/10/1925458-bolsonaro-diz-que-e-liberal-e-adota-discurso-que-agrada-investidores.shtml

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12065391

https://www.americasquarterly.org/content/brazils-crisis-two-sentences-or-less

 

Image labeled for reuse from Wikimedia Commons

With warming political relations, is Korean reunification possible?

As North Korean athletes arrive in South Korea for the winter Olympics, discussion about co-operation and reunification has been prompted.

North Korea appears supportive and positive about such discussions, urging “all Koreans at home and abroad” to “promote contact (and) cooperation between North and South Korea”

In the South, however, protests met the North Korean hockey team as they arrived and a poll suggested that 70% of South Koreans were opposed to the joint hockey team, concerned that their players would, in consequence, get less playing time.

Across the sea, reports have come out suggesting that China would support a unified Korea if it meant peace in the region.

The Chinese ambassador to the United States stated: “China would support reunification if it is the will of the Korean people. “As long as it’s peaceful, it’s independent (and) by the Korean people, China will support it,”

The big question though remains, Is reunification ultimately possible? And how? 

According to Statistics by Seoul National University’s Institute for Peace and Unification Studies in 2017 (and reported by Smithsonian.com), just under 25% of respondents did not believe reunification was possible. However, the same poll found that almost 54% of South Koreas felt it was necessary.

And discussions about what sort of system a reunified Korea would adopt is also a point of disagreement.  Whilst just under half would like to keep the same democratic system, other suggestions include a hybrid of the two or the continuation of both systems.

The 1990’s and early 2000’s saw some positive discussion and progress between the two nations, however, that appeared to stall when North Korea began nuclear and missile tests, as well as provoking behaviour.

And whilst communication and dialogue have improved between the two Koreas in recent months, the idea of reunification is still abstract. However, with both countries appearing to take steps in the right direction, only time will tell.

“The two Koreas fundamental ideological difference make it difficult to conceive a credible reunification strategy,”  – Anwita Basu, analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit (CNN)

 

 

Uk forewarns aid cuts

The United Kingdom has announced they will begin to cut foreign aid to developing countries failing to invest in their own citizens.

The country who now provides £13 billion each year overseas is calling for governments to take more responsibility and step up. Failing to do so would influence the UK’s economic support.

This new approach was developed after fears that foreign aid provides no incentive for countries to invest their own money and resources into things such as healthcare.

However, some have raised concerns of suddenly stripping aid from countries who really need it, and believe that even with taking self-supporting steps, there still a significant need for aid.

As reported by the BBC,  the UK government is legally required to spend 0.7% of their gross national income on overseas aid.

The announcement coincides with the United States decision to withhold 65 million dollars in aid to Palestine

Mexico’s war on media

Whilst driving through the Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo, on a Sunday afternoon independent reporter Carlos Domínguez, aged 77, became the latest victim in a string of attacks against journalists.

According to CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists), in 2017 6 journalists with journalistic motive killed, and another 3 unconfirmed.  They reported in their annual findings that:

“…Away from conflict zones, Mexico was the deadliest country…making it the third worst nation for killings worldwide.”  -CPJ

Of at least 95 journalists killed since 1992, CPJ determined journalism as the motive of 43.

The drug war gripping parts of the country has developed “silenced zones” where stories on crime or the Cartels are deliberately left alone or blurry in order to protect staff.

In light of this, authorities and government are unable to offer much help, and corruption is not uncommon either.

Despite this, many media workers continue to report, write, blog regardless of the risk. They know that any piece could be their last, but are determined to stand up to those oppressing both them and others.

They are Mexico’s last defenders of press freedom.

Why Italy remains unsympathetic over the #metoo campaign

Italian actress Asia Argento is one of the latest to accuse Hollywood giant Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault.  However, it has been revealed that she has not faced the same sympathy in her own country that she has abroad.

The actress reported that she felt “doubly crucified” by both the assault and by some reactions from Italy since sharing her story and temporarily moved to Berlin to escape.

“I am being shamed by the Italian media…”

– Argento in an interview to Variety (News.com.au)

So why has the #Metoo campaign not had the same effect in Italy, that it has across much of the rest of the world?

News.com.au reports that many question the length of time been the incidents and the allegations since many of the accusations coming forward are from multiple years ago.

However, as The New York Times investigates, Italy’s unsympathetic response may reveal something deeper about their own culture.

President of Italy’s Chamber of Deputies, Laura Boldrini discussed how it wasn’t the fact harassment did not occur in Italy, but the fact there are strong repercussions for those who do speak up.

 “They know that in this country, there is a strong prejudice against them.”

–  Laura Boldrini, president of Italy’s Chamber of Deputies (The New York Times)

This creates a silencing effect and explains both some of the reactions to Asia Argento’s story and why the #Metoo campaign has not had the same response in the European country.