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Trump And The World

Circumnavigating In The Age Of Trump

He's off ...
He's off ...


Back in the 16th century, it took Ferdinand Magellan"s crew more than two years to sail around the world. Yesterday, a new record was set in the prestigious Vendée Globe solo sailing race, as French skipper Armel Le Cléac'h took just 74 days to circumnavigate our planet.

When such records are set, we tend to focus on the technological progress that makes that kind of speed possible. But what may be more remarkable is that the desire to take to the open seas in a vessel powered only by wind still tugs at our imagination. It's a reminder, perhaps, that the forces of nature are ultimately beyond the control of humans, that the world has actually not gotten any smaller.

Much of our planet, nonetheless, will be connected instantaneously today to follow events in Washington D.C., where the new "leader of the free world" will take the presidential oath of office. Donald Trump"s own world appears as small as his voice is loud. The leadership that he has promised is driven by a conviction (perhaps the only fixed political idea he has) that a world moving closer is a threat to the wellbeing of the United States.

From where we sit that looks nothing like progress, neither for the United States nor for the world. Still, popular democracy — a singular mast of human progress that did not exist 500 years ago — has spoken. So hold on, batten down the hatches, and Godspeed to us all.

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An End To Venezuela Sanctions? The Lula Factor In Biden's Democratization Gamble

The Biden administration's exploration to lift sanctions on Venezuela, hoping to gently push its regime back on the path of democracy, might have taken its cue from Brazilian President Lula's calls to stop demonizing Venezuela.

Photo of a man driving a motorbike past a wall with a mural depicting former President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela

Driving past a Chavez mural in Caracas, Venezuela

Leopoldo Villar Borda


BOGOTÁ — Reports last month that U.S. President Joe Biden's apparent decision to unblock billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets, frozen since 2015 as part of the United States' sanctions on the Venezuelan regime, could be the first of many pieces to fall in a domino effect that could help end the decades-long Venezuelan deadlock.

It may move the next piece — the renewal of conversations in Mexico between the Venezuelan government and opposition — before pushing over other obstacles to elections due in 2024 and to Venezuela's return into the community of American states.

I don't think I'm being naïve in anticipating developments that would lead to a new narrative around Venezuela, very different to the one criticized by Brazil's president, Lula da Silva. He told a regional summit in Brasilia in June that there were prejudices about Venezuela — and I dare say he wasn't entirely wrong, based on the things I hear from a Venezuelan friend who lives in Bogotá but travels frequently home.

My friend insists his country's recent history is not quite as depicted in the foreign press. The price of basic goods found in a food market are much the same as those in Bogotá, he says.

He goes to the theater when he visits Caracas, eats in restaurants and strolls in parks and squares. There are new building works, he says. He uses the Caracas metro and insists its trains and stations are clean — showing me pictures on his cellphone to prove it.

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