Costa Rica’s late nomination of Christiana Figueres to be UN Secretary General reshuffled the deck both in Latin America and globally. Many UN insiders were watching the candidacy of Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, a favorite due to her closeness to current UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. Her candidacy was considered the strongest from outside of Eastern Europe, which is the most likely region to receive the position. Malcorra even moderated her country’s position on Venezuela at the OAS to prevent a veto at the UN Security Council from Russia or China, two allies of President Maduro.
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.
Even before taking Brazil’s presidency, Michel Temer is making an unforced error. In recent days, Temer announced likely cabinet positions should Dilma Rousseff be suspended from office, as she was this morning. However, as pointed out by many journalists, Temer’s proposed cabinet appointments are all white males. Under social media shame, Temer had an opportunity to fix the issue before he officially named his cabinet and failed to do so. The lack of diversity will be a powerful weapon for Temer’s opponents to show how out of touch he and his government are from day one. Those opponents include the now suspended president. Perhaps more important, the lack of diversity is also a window into the insular mindset of Temer, who has been so wrapped up in an “old-boys network” for decades that he may fail to understand the reality of Brazil.
There is a growing realization within the Venezuelan MUD that they are stuck. The government is losing ground in terms of public opinion and general ability to run the country, but Maduro’s opponents still do not have a clear path forward. The decision last week for an “all of the above” strategy to push for Maduro’s ouster came with the unspoken acknowledgement that all of the routes that the opposition controls have little chance of succeeding independently due to the government’s control of other institutions including the military and the courts. Ultimately, the goal of these routes is to convince the Chavistas that their best option is to push Maduro out. Meanwhile, the opposition is simply trying to use its ongoing National Assembly efforts to position itself as a legitimate alternative to voters.