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Economy

1970s China Revisited? Venezuela's "Special Economic Zones" Are A Desperate Scam

Venezuela is to create free economic zones to attract foreign capital into the Venezuelan economy, but who would take "clean" money to a lawless land run by rapacious revolutionaries?

-OpEd-

With full pomp and surrounded by flatterers and opportunists purporting to be Venezuela's new breed of businessmen, President Nicolás Maduro recently announced the promulgation of a law to create Special Economic Zones (SEZs). The concept is from communist China, which began implementing it in 1970 as part of the economic modernization plans associated with its late leader, Deng Xiaoping — a response to the hardships and shortages suffered earlier under Chairman Mao.

SEZs differed from the rest of China's territory for enjoying more liberal norms and fewer restrictions on production or the arrival of direct foreign investment.

That is what Maduro's regime claims it wants to do: attract foreign capital. He expects to succeed even after wasting over a trillion U.S. dollars' worth of oil revenues, shrinking the economy 90% and confiscating thousands of businesses. They declare that Venezuela needs investments, as if this were a revelation and shortages were a new problem, somehow unrelated to 20 years of misrule by himself and his ally and predecessor Hugo Chavez.

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Maduro's Crimes Don't Make Juan Guaido President Of Venezuela

More than two years after the opposition leader proclaimed himself the country's 'legitimate' leader, the man he was hoping to oust — President Nicolas Maduro — is still very much in charge.

-OpEd-

It's reasonable, here in Latin America, that left-wing politicians — as a way to establish their democratic credibility — would be asked to distance themselves from Venezuela's dictatorial regime. It's notable, here in Peru, both those who have and have not done so.

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Democracy Hasn't Made Latin America Any Less Turbulent

Politics in the region have become even more complex since the Cold War era of revolutions and military juntas.

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — Latin America elected presidents last year in the region's three most populous countries: Brazil, Mexico and Colombia. Of those, only Mexico's Andrés Manuel López Obrador retains acceptable popularity levels. This month, three more presidential elections are set to take place — in Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay.

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Venezuela: The Hard Part About Overthrowing Maduro

The opposition has so far failed to provoke a military uprising against President Nicolás Maduro, and for now, can only count on an angry but tired population.

-Analysis-

CARACAS — As Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaidó asked supporters on May Day to continue street protests against the government of President Nicolás Maduro, on Caracas's famed Altamira junction, a resilient group of protesters were throwing rocks and shouting at the soldiers firing tear gas at them from the Francisco de Mirando air base.

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Sources
AméricaEconomía

Why Latin America Needs To Move Against Maduro Right Now

The economic and political tragedy unfolding in Venezuela should be a call to action for the rest of the region's countries, especially with the early presidential election (April 22) looming.

-Editorial-

SANTIAGO — As tens of thousands of Venezuelans try to cross the borders into Colombia and Brazil to escape a country in ruins, a fraudulent legislative power opted to forward the country's presidential elections to April 22 and a shoddy judiciary barred the candidacies of opposition leaders. All the while, Venezuela continues to enjoy the backing of Bolivia and Cuba. And here in Chile, the government invited President Nicolás Maduro to next month's presidential transfer ceremony.

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CLARIN
Marcelo Cantelmi

Venezuela And Zimbabwe: The Worst Of Times And Even Worse Of Times

Mugabe and Maduro share much in common, starting with the rare ability to gut the resources of a promising national economy and disregard the will of the people. But there is an important difference that may explain who survives another day.

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — They are allies that share some big problems on both the political and economic fronts: Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

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Peru
Farid Kahhat

Castro, Chávez And The True Origins Of Autocracy

Did adverse conditions force such Latin American strongmen Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro to clamp down, or did they hide their authoritarian designs from the start?

LIMA — What leads a regime to take the radical path? Is it preordained, or do events radicalize governments? In Cuba and Venezuela, two governing systems mostly closely adhering to communism's core ideology, the original revolutionary leaders never actually set out to create communist states.

In 1959, when Fidel Castro led a guerrilla campaign to oust the conservative regime of Fulgencio Batista, and after his triumphal entry into Havana, Cuba's new leader clearly stated that his was not a communist revolution. In 1998, Hugo Chávez likewise told the Univisión reporter Jorge Ramos that he believed the Cuban regime was a dictatorship, and separately assured the Peruvian television presenter Jaime Bayly that he was not leading a socialist movement.

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Nicaragua
Benjamin Witte

Ortega And Maduro, Burdens Of A Shared Destiny

Just hours before outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama's emotional farewell address in Chicago, another head of state was taking center stage down in steamy Central America to let just the opposite be known: He's still very much here, with no plans to leave power anytime soon.

Daniel Ortega, the long-serving leader of Nicaragua, first came to power through a 1979 revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed Somoza family dictatorship. He headed the country's junta government (1979-1985) before serving as president until 1990. Two more terms followed, starting in 2007, and on Tuesday, Ortega was sworn in for yet another five-year period, the Nicaraguan daily El Nuevo Diario reported.

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blog

Explosions In Thailand, Questions Of Label

SPOTLIGHT: EXPLOSIONS IN THAILAND, QUESTIONS OF LABEL

Thailand was hit by a series of coordinated blasts across the country last night and early this morning, leaving four people dead and 34 injured. The Bangkok Post reports that the heaviest damage was in the resort town of Hua Hin, where explosions killed two and injured dozens, including foreign tourists. The popular island of Phuket was also targeted in the string of attacks that struck at least five cities on a public holiday marking the queen's birthday.


Tensions were running high in Thailand after last weekend's vote on a new constitution and in the run up to the anniversary of a bombing that killed 22 people in Bangkok last year. "The bombs are an attempt to create chaos and confusion," said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.


What is unclear is who was behind the explosions. "It's too soon to jump to any conclusion," deputy police spokesman Poll Col Krisana Pattanacharoen was quoted as saying by the newspaper. "But what we know for sure is that the incidents are not linked directly to any kinds of terrorism, in fact it's local sabotage and we are trying to identify those responsible behind the scenes."


As we get endless news of attacks from different corners of the world, it's worth taking a step back before jumping to labels of any kind — especially when the motive remains unknown. An article by Süddeutsche Zeitung's Joachim Käppner, translated exclusively into English by Worldcrunch, says that societies often dismiss bombers and terrorists as "insane" and "crazy" but argues that these labels hide an uncomfortable truth: According to forensic experts cited by Käppner, pathologizing such crimes only blurs the culprit's responsibility and stigmatizes those who are truly mentally ill.

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Venezuela

In Venezuela, 'Blackmailing Through Their Stomachs'

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El Nacional, June 9, 2016

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blog

Debris Confirmed, Spring Angst, Scandinavialand

SPOTLIGHT: SPRINGTIME ANGST IN PARIS

It's spring in Paris: the trees are bursting with foliage, café terraces look inviting, the French Open is about to kick off. Shall we indulge in that apéro? Mais, non! The mood in the City of Light feels anything but spring-like right now. There is the fate of EgyptAir Flight 804, which took off from the capital's Charles de Gaulle airport, and is believed to have crashed yesterday with 66 people on board, including 15 French nationals. While passengers' families await more information, the rest of the country wonders if France again is the target of terrorists.


But the risks in Paris don't only come from abroad, or above. Road blockades and train strikes have crippled traffic the past week following more than two months of often violent demonstrations. On Wednesday, protesters attacked a patrol car and set it on fire with two policemen inside.More than 300 police have been hurt so far and about 1300 arrests have been made since violence first broke out.


The focal point of this wrath? Proposed reforms to France's labor laws, in addition to negotiations over working conditions and pay. So far, President Francois Hollande has stuck to his guns. He is unwilling to withdraw the bills that would make hiring and firing easier, measures he believes would encourage companies to recruit more people and reverse France's stubbornly high unemployment.


But the economic and social policy questions, more than ever, are interwoven with the issue of public security. On Thursday, lawmakers voted, once again, to extend the state of emergency first put into place following the November 13 terrorist attacks in and around Paris. The government had argued for the two-month extension, which allows law enforcement to hold people under house arrest, in order to reinforce security to cover two big sporting events coming up in France: the 2016 Euro soccer tournament and the Tour de France cycling race. Here's hoping for safety in sports, and a better summer in Paris.

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Venezuela

Venezuela To Public Workers: Stay At Home

Venezuelan public workers woke up Wednesday to newspaper headlines that told them to stay home.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced in a televised address Tuesday that the government is slashing additional working hours for the country's 2.8 million public workers in a bid to save energy, reducing the working week from four to two days. Earlier this month, the government had already reduced the working days from five to four, telling public workers not to come in on Fridays.

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