Networked Notes - 21 June 2016

By Southern Pulse Staff and Network

Venezuela’s MUD is stuck in a bind. The president and ruling party’s approval ratings are way down while the leading opposition leaders and parties to President Maduro are relatively popular. But popularity doesn’t mean there is a checkmate move in sight. While the MUD is not yet willing to admit defeat, Maduro appears to have successfully blocked the chances for a recall referendum this year. This removes a key path to a democratic transition prior to the scheduled 2019 elections. The hemisphere is debating the ongoing negotiations and Democratic Charter at the OAS this week, but whatever the outcome of that debate, it doesn’t change the fact that a peaceful and democratic transition is unlikely in the short term.

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As the hemisphere debates Venezuela’s democratic credentials, Nicaragua President Ortega has moved to completely eliminate his political opposition to reelection later this year. The Nicaraguan opposition is calling the move a coup, but unlike Venezuela, Nicaragua does not have massive food shortages, high murder rates or an economy facing collapse. Ortega is less democratic than Maduro, but he’s also managing the country’s overall situation far better than his Venezuelan counterpart, so the hemisphere appears likely to give him a free pass.

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The 7 June Networked Notes suggested PRI leader Manlio Fabio Beltrones would struggle to keep his job through the 2018 elections. He didn’t even last two weeks, and presented his resignation this week to the PRI.

The PRI is struggling to find its footing since its recent electoral defeat. However, from a Machiavellian perspective, they did strike a successful blow last week against the anti-corruption reform effort. The PRI weakened the 3de3 requirements on politicians, while requiring any business that has received federal money to disclose its finances. This move was punishment of the business community for their support of anti-corruption efforts and an attempted poison pill for the transparency drive. The business community in Mexico must now decide how to fight against an unfair, cynical, yet brilliant power play maneuver by the ruling party. On the other hand, when presidential campaign season begins in earnest, the PRI’s reluctance to get onboard with anti-corruption efforts is likely to be a core criticism from opponents, and one that may resonate with voters.