Venezuela: A State of Volatility

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.

Networked Notes - 12 May 2016

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.

#PanamaProjects: Two Views on Progress after Panama Papers

On 5 May 2015, Vice President and Foreign Relations Minister Isabel Saint Malo de Alvarado spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC. In her remarks, Saint Malo emphasized two major themes: human development and transparency.

While she candidly acknowledged Panama’s history as an opaque and often corrupt steward of financial resources, she highlighted President Juan Carlos Varela’s determination to move quickly and decisively in a new direction. Regarding the so-called ‘Panama Papers,’ Saint Malo noted the publications referred to banks operating in 21 jurisdictions, none in Panama. She added that of the offshores revealed in the leak so far, 20 percent were registered in Panama, but 80 percent were registered elsewhere.

Networked Notes - 4 May 2016

Mexico’s Congress failed to act on proposed anti-corruption legislation and Mexico’s President Peña Nieto has largely ignored the issue. Delays in anti-corruption initiatives pushed civil society to collect over a half million signatures in favor of the Ley 3x3, which would have legally obligated Mexican politicians to publicly disclose assets, possible conflicts of interest, and tax payments. The fact Mexico’s Congress isn’t acting on anti-corruption legislation, with the PRI refusing to even attend debates on the issue, shows the basic challenges confronting these sorts of laws.

Cabinet Reshuffle Amidst Santos’s Declining Approval Ratings

Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos’s approval rating has sunk to 24 percent, with an urban approval rating dipping to just 13 percent according to a March 2016 YanHaas poll. Santos, who began his first term with a 75 percent approval rating in August 2010, faces growing opposition during a time of low oil prices, high inflation, and a controversial peace agreement in the works.

Networked Notes - 20 April 2016

With 367 votes in favor, the margin of the vote in Brazil’s lower house was well above the 342 votes needed to impeach President Dilma Rousseff and move the issue to the Senate. That total was padded by a number of defections by former allies of President Rousseff and former President Lula including four former cabinet ministers from Rousseff’s government. The PT has a long memory and the party is likely to throw resources at defeating at the people they view as traitors in the future.

Networked Notes - 12 April 2016

Keiko Fujimori’s campaign was prepared and eager to take on Veronica Mendoza in a second round battle. Mendoza’s candidacy would have allowed Fujimori to use the same playbook that helped Garcia to defeat Humala in 2006, with a network of activists both in Peru and abroad already starting to link her to Venezuela’s PSUV and Hugo Chavez. Whether true or not, Mendoza’s candidacy in the second round would have shifted the narrative of the election.

Networked Notes - 29 March 2016

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.