The Venezuelan National Constituent Assembly met for the first time several days ago amidst a flurry of critical international commentary. The U.S. State Department issued a statement referring to the assembly as “the illegitimate product of a flawed process designed by the Maduro dictatorship to further its assault on democracy.” Opposition candidates were forbidden from participating in the election to form part of the Constituent Assembly, and the authoritarianism in Venezuela continues to increase. Other Latin American countries are concerned about increased violence throughout the region, and Venezuela has been excluded from several organizations of Latin American countries. I responded to these developments in my recent interview on Venezuela with RT News.
The economies of many Latin American countries are growing significantly for the first time in several years. This change is due to several factors, including increased market prices of commodities exported from the region as well as the strengthening of trade alliances within Latin America. This latter development is a result of U.S. President Donald Trump’s signaling of a protectionist path. In response to anticipated policies from Trump’s administration, Latin American countries are working to boost their relationships with non-U.S. trade partners.
Whether this growth is sustainable is yet to be seen. The deep and persistent inequality in most countries in the region is a significant obstacle, and major elections (both presidential and legislative) in many Latin American countries in 2017 and early 2018 will impact economic stability and growth as well.
Read my full report on the Geopolitical Intelligence Services website.
President Mauricio Macri of Argentina was a successful businessman for many years before becoming the Mayor of Buenos Aires then the President of the country in 2015. He proposed plans to guarantee economic stability, but thus far the success has been moderate. Changes in the coming months, like increased prices for utilities and gasoline, will exacerbate the rising public discontent, and the position of the dissident Peronists will likely strengthen. Unrest is growing particularly quickly among particular sectors, like farmers, who were waiting for Macri to cut the tax on soy as promised. Now, there is no sign Macri will cut the tax, and this example illustrates a larger trend in the implementation of Macri’s economic plans. Read more in my recent report for the Geopolitical Intelligence Services, “Argentina’s Macri in the Crosshairs.”
Several weeks ago, I spoke with Veinte Manzanas from the online newsmagazine Nuevos Papeles about Donald Trump’s victory, what will come of his campaign promises, and implications for his foreign policy, given his lack of specificity about policies.
Read the published text of the interview in Spanish here.
I explain that his victory should not come as a complete surprise, considering the Republican Party is supported by around 40% of the electorate, thus, any candidate from their party will be competitive in an election. It is also important to acknowledge that his supporters are more than simply racist whites. Rather, Trump also appealed to voters who were angry with the current federal government. Many of his supporters are members of the working-class who have been increasingly discontented by globalization, the widening inequality gap, and the lowering of salaries for workers. Clinton did little campaigning in states where these groups of people dominate the electorate.
As for international relations, Trump’s supporters are not especially concerned with foreign policy. During his campaign, Trump broadly stated that the U.S. needed better relationships with their allies, but he did not elaborate specific policies. When he mentioned other countries, he highlighted Mexico, China, and the Middle East: he proposed building a wall at the U.S.-Mexican border; he declared that China is advancing more quickly than the U.S. and stated he intends to negotiate more aggressively with China; and he vilified the Middle East as the source of ISIS. Regarding relations with Latin America, the policies under Trump’s administration will be largely shaped by his advisors.
Commentary on the Venezuelan Economic Crisis with Prof. Luis Ricardo Davila of Universidad de la Andes, Venezuela.