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.
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.
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.
The FARC traveled to previous rounds of Cuba via planes funded by the Venezuelan government and PDVSA. Now, with the Venezuelan governments finances in deep jeopardy, that line of funding for the FARC has allegedly ended. The FARC leadership received Red Cross support to provide their transportation to Cuba for what may be the final round (optimistically) of peace negotiations.