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.
The PMDB is expected to break from the Rousseff government today in Brazil. Whether or not President Rousseff is impeached, one key issue to watch moving forward will be PMDB unity, which would be a historical first. Vice President Michel Temer appears to be making a play for the presidency, but in spite of his high rank, he's a weak person to hold the coalition together. Speaker of the House Eduardo Cunha broke away from the government several months ago, creating a rift in the party. Several PMDB politicians in Congress will feel pressure to protect Rousseff on impeachment. Some members of Congress will likely sit on the sidelines and wait to join the winning side when it becomes apparent. And, of course, the party has a large number of its own corruption scandals that could further test its cohesiveness as Lava Jato investigations progress.
Despite China’s economic slowdown, the Inter-American Dialogue’s Chinese Finance to LAC in 2015 Report indicates Chinese policy banks financed US$29 billion in 2015 to Latin American and Caribbean governments and businesses, up US$19 billion from 2014. The main recipients of funding were Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, receiving 95 percent of of total lending to the region. The funds from the China Development Bank (CDB) and the China Export-Import Bank (Eximbank) were focused heavily on infrastructure projects, which ostensibly could assist in moving products (agricultural produce and extractives) from “fields to ports,” easing China’s ability to obtain the resources it needs from its Latin American partners.