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Americas

As Venezuela’s crisis continues, so too do its serious repercussions for neighbouring countries. Of the four million Venezuelans that have left the country – the largest migrant crisis in the region’s recent history – more than 1.3 million have arrived in Colombia, on Venezuela’s western border. But this comes at a time when Colombia itself still faces high levels of violence. Though its government signed a peace deal with the FARC guerrilla group in 2016, their counterparts in the National Liberation Army (ELN) have yet to give up arms. Elsewhere, the number of FARC dissidents is rising, and other violent non-state groups – from right-wing paramilitaries to Mexican drug cartels – are jostling for position in the race to fill the void created by demobilisation of …

“Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals.”  [Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal] If history is any guide, there is reason to hope that President Trump belatedly takes up painting this campaign season. Over the next 18 months or so, as always seems to be the case in American politics, the looming presence of a presidential election will throw up a whole host of impediments to the pursuit of optimal diplomatic agreements abroad, including with China, Afghanistan and North Korea. A brief look back at critical negotiations during the wars in Vietnam and Iraq suggests a crucial lesson: electoral politics and diplomacy do not mix …

Mexico’s new national guard has been in the news recently because it plays a critical role stemming the flow of Central American migrants. However, it remains “a work in progress,” and has been the subject of severe criticism since its inception. Despite making promises to demilitarize Mexico during his campaign, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is going forward with continuing to rely on militarized public security under a different name. The Plan Nacional de Paz y Seguridad 2018-2024 – his plan to bring about ‘peace and security,’ entails the creation of a Guardia Nacional (national guard). Of course, improving public security is of vital importance, because the security situation in Mexico is dire: Last year set a new record for …

The iconic statue of the first American postmaster general Benjamin Franklin greets visitors to the Old Post Office Pavilion in the heart of the US capital: Washington, DC. The edifice is now home to the luxurious and controversial Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue at the mid-point between the US Capitol Building and the White House. The hotel webpage invites guests to “share tea” in the Benjamin Bar to discuss “social and economic affairs” as it was the “‘established custom’” in colonial America. It further states that “we agree with Franklin” and delight to “serve tea from China.” The page indicates that Franklin had stated “‘at least a million Americans drink tea twice a day,’” Yet, he was “unable to …

Inaction in politics can be comfortable. Politicians might opt for hand wringing to avoid confronting the consequences of their actions, or, in the worst-case, to hide their own complicity. Mexico´s new administration has been in the headlines recently for doing just the opposite: On December 27th of last year, president Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced that his government would confront the large-scale theft of fuel that affects Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX). Since then, there have been widespread news of lines and fuel shortages. The situation escalated further on January 18 with the horrific news of 73 people killed and another 76 gravely injured from the explosion of a fuel pipeline in the state of Hidalgo. Mexico´s New Black Market What the …

If it is part and parcel for democracies to (1) protect individual rights, (2) safeguard its citizenship from serious abuses of power, and (3) produce fair and reasonable laws which are impartially enforced, then we can assert that the misnamed “war on drugs” severely corrodes Mexican democracy. In general, the “war on drugs” is a punitive strategy which aims to increase drug prices and punish consumers, under the assumption that attacking supply can create a world without drugs. In Mexico, what is referred to as the “war on drugs” escalated in 2006, when then-president Felipe Calderón started “a frontal war against organized crime”, allegedly, to “keep drugs from reaching our children”. Calderón did so right after a highly competitive election …

On October 8th, Brazilians went to the polls to vote for a new President amid economic woes, an all-encompassing seeming corruption scandal, and, a deteriorating security situation. With the most popular candidate, former President Ignacio “Lula” da Silva, banned from appearing on the ballot due to a conviction earlier this year, and, incumbent President Michel Temer deeply disliked, controversial right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro became the odds-on favourite. Outperforming predictions, Bolsonaro received 46% of the votes. However, because he fell short of securing the outright majority of votes, he will face the runner-up, Fernando Haddad, who received 29% of the votes, in the second round of the elections on October 28th. While much has been written about Bolsonaro’s affinity to and …

Creating external crises to deviate from internal problems is a well-known recipe in politics. Unpopular dictators often resort to this tactic to shape the discourse and concerns of the opposition, media, and population. In Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has adopted this tactic since day one. The regime’s latest attempt to induce a crisis was fabricating the notion that the opposition, in collaboration with the U.S., sought to end Maduro’s life with a drone attack. Nobody has taken this story seriously. Thus, this piece will not waste time discussing the drone affair but will instead focus on five issues that really matter. Nobody Chose This When thinking about the Venezuelan crisis, one might erroneously believe that people chose this type of …