Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States, has faced mounting criticism for his handling of recent democratic crises in Latin America. In particular, people have called Almagro’s approach to Venezuela hypocritical, given his lack of condemnation for the “soft-coup” in Brazil. However, Almagro’s handling of these democratic crises highlights the predicament facing the OAS when addressing threats to democracy in the 21st century. Although the challenges are evolving, the institutional tools for addressing them have not.
All polling shows the Colombia plebiscite is likely to pass by a significant margin. Still, the Santos government is not taking victory for granted. Sources close to the government suggest an ongoing press for votes to deliver a giant margin of victory if possible, giving the peace deal the largest possible mandate.
Outside of a very small group of governments including El Salvador, nearly the entire hemisphere has decided to ignore Brazil’s change of government, some eagerly and others reluctantly, the administration of Michel Temer in Brazil. While certain media, including Venezuelan-backed Telesur, have tried to portray the Temer administration as a U.S. plot, in reality, most of the hemisphere is de-facto accepting the interim president.
A renewal of the State of Economic Emergency Decree for another 60 days was published in Venezuela’s Gaceta Oficial on 16 May 2016. The new decree, characterized by the opposition as violating the Constitution, allows the government to take foreign policy measures to impede foreign intervention, conduct international and domestic negotiations to satisfy goods shortages (which will in turn be distributed by the national guard and the police), intervene when companies stop production, and solicit international aid for restoring the ecosystems affected by climate change (which have impacted Venezuela's energy resources), among other actions.
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.
The arrest of João Santana in Brazil has brought the Lava Jato scandal much closer to President Dilma Rousseff and her campaign team. While investigators have yet to pin corruption specifically to Rousseff, the news that third party payments passed to Santana during recent campaigns could be reason to invalidate her election. This specific scandal also hits former President Lula da Silva, highlight corruption of a key ally and knocking down an important element of his potential 2018 campaign machine. More important this year, Santana’s arrest could hurt the PT’s chances in key mayoral races, particularly São Paulo.