The shoes were clearly too big for him to fill. Three-and-a-half years after Hugo Chávez's death, his successor Nicolás Maduro is losing an already loose grip on the helm of his country. A disastrous economic and social crisis is turning into a political one, and the country's long-suffering opposition feels primed to remove him from power.

Anti-government protests now appear to be reaching a critical juncture after a policeman was shot dead yesterday by demonstrators in Caracas, while two other officers and several protesters were injured, along with dozens of arrests, El Universal reports. The opposition called for a nationwide strike tomorrow, and for a protest march on the presidential palace next week Thursday.

The current turmoil in Venezuela, and Maduro's way of dealing with it, are blurring the lines between democracy and dictatorship — a bitterly ironic reversal for what was once a strong democracy in a Latin American continent otherwise dominated by authoritarian regimes.


This is the state of affairs described by Colombian professor Ronal F. Rodríguez in an op-ed column for El Espectador, available in English onWorldcrunch: "Classifying Venezuela as a dictatorship or democracy has not been easy these last years," he writes. "The country ruled by Chávez was neither entirely democratic, nor dictatorial. The presence of an opposition that could compete in elections, though often in unequal conditions, made this rather a moderately authoritarian system. But the picture has changed since Chávez's death."

Unlike the Venezuelan opposition, Rodríguez stops short of calling Maduro a dictator. But he does warn that the regime is "openly flirting with dictatorial practices," causing as a result "alarm across a continent where democratic ideals are still far from written in stone."


WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY


TWO EARTHQUAKES HIT ITALY

Two earthquakes, the first of magnitude 5.4 and the other one much stronger at 6.1, hit central Italy in quick succession yesterday evening. Both were aftershocks of the devastating quake that hit the same region in August, killing nearly 300 people. According to news agency Ansa, there have been at least 200 smaller earthquake since yesterday, with more than 30 of them above magnitude 3. There have been no reports of casualties so far but some locations have suffered extensive damage, and the Civil Protection Agency in the Marche region said they feared many of the homes that still stood after the August earthquake would now likely be uninhabitable. A map, published by Corriere della Sera, shows that much of the Italian peninsula is at high or very high risk of seismic events.

U.S. PREPARING RAQQA OFFENSIVE …

U.S. forces and their allies are preparing for an offensive on Raqqa, ISIS' de facto capital in Syria, CNN reports. They will be ready for battle "in a matter of weeks," Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters yesterday, before adding "and not many weeks."

… AS BATTLE FOR MOSUL RAGES ON

ISIS fighters are putting up a fierce resistance on the southern side of Mosul and have so far been able to hold up Iraqi troops, some 20 miles south of the city, according to Reuters. In a sign that the terrorist group won't accept defeat easily, reports emerged of dozens of prisoners executed as ISIS fighters retreat.

— ON THIS DAY

Wishing a happy birthday to one of the most eccentric Italian directors ... That, and more, in today's 57-second shot of history.

BREAKTHROUGH ON CANADA-EU FREE TRADE DEAL

A Canadian delegation led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced it had cancelled a planned trip to Brussels with EU-Canada negotiations on a trade deal blocked overnight. But by midday local time, Belgian daily Le Soir was reporting a breakthrough to overcome the opposition to the deal of Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium.

58%

Global wildlife population plummeted by 58% between 1970 and 2012, the World Wildlife Fund reveals in a shocking new report. If current trends continue, two-thirds of the world's mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles will have disappeared by the end of the decade, compared to 1970 levels, with conservationists warning of a "mass extinction."

— WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Iran has had enough of Justin Bieber and the Great Satan corporate powers turning out such sinful teenage beats … To combat the Canadian-born singer's "adolescent antics," the country is organizing its own awards: "The organizer of the first Grand Prize for Revolutionary Music, Mohsen Tehrani, told ISNA news agency this week that the program's goal is to foster collaboration between songwriters and musicians and promote musical excellence. It is also looks to ‘vaccinate' youngsters against the West's pop culture intrusions, which threaten ‘fundamentalist and family-oriented' societies like Iran's, he said."

Read more about it, exclusively in English by Worldcrunch: Iran's Next Target: Justin Bieber.

SAMSUNG PROFITS TUMBLE AFTER NOTE 7 FIASCO

Samsung's operating profit between July and September fell by more than 30% compared to last year, as a result of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone's debacle. Profits for the South Korean company's mobile division alone suffered a 96% year-on-year decline.

— MY GRAND-PERE'S WORLD

Far From The Pharaoh — Cairo, 1990

MYANMAR IS THE WORLD'S MOST GENEROUS COUNTRY

For the third year in a row, Myanmar proved to be the world's most generous country. Second-placed United States is among the five G20 nations to have made to top 20.

MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH

BACK TO BACK TO BLACK

English singer Amy Winehouse's second and final studio album Back To Black came out 10 years ago today. For The Atlantic, pop culture specialist Spencer Kornhaber dives into the record's "enduring sadness."

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Geopolitics

New Revelations Of García Marquez's Ties To Cuba And Nicaragua

Like other intellectuals of his time, the celebrated Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez admired Cuba's Fidel Castro. What's just been revealed, however, is also, as one text reveals, the Sandinista rebels who have stifled Nicaraguan democracy in past years.

The inauguration of the mural in memory of the Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in Bogota, Colombia

Mauricio Rubio

BOGOTÁ — Entirely isolated and criticized by the international community, Daniel Ortega was again sworn in earlier this month as president of Nicaragua.

Ortega has now outdone Anastasio Somoza, the despot he helped topple in his youth, with a record 26 years in power and starting a fifth mandate, including a fourth consecutive one and the second with his wife Rosario Murillo as vice-president.

After Cuba's Fidel Castro, he is the regional tyrant most frequently cheered by Colombia's leftist intellectuals, and praised as his people's emancipator from "yankee oppression."

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