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.
Eduardo's Cunha's preventive arrest represents a potential problem for the Temer Government and the Brazilian political system as a whole. In the past week, plea deals involving Temer's close confidants and cabinet members --Eliseu Padilha, Moreira Franco and Romero Jucá-- for receiving bribes from Odebretch were leaked. Cunha's arrest puts additional pressure on these key government members, who Cunha now views as political enemies responsible for his downfall.
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.
The FARC leadership expressed sincere gratitude to Venezuela’s government for the success of recent peace negotiations. In reality, it is Venezuela’s government which should be thanking the FARC. The extended peace negotiations are a critical reason why Colombia specifically, and Latin America in general, has been reluctant to more forcefully denounce abuses of human rights and democratic values in Venezuela.
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.
Venezuela’s government has ended its two day workweek, a sign the electricity crisis is easing. Public sector employees will now return to work for half days on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of every week. Government officials declared victory. The extreme measures taken prevented Venezuela’s electricity grid from completely collapsing. However, that is a low bar for success.
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.