President Nicolás Maduro is facing a marked deterioration of the economy and intense shortages of food and basic goods, increasing the risks of social protests and widespread looting, as well as potentially threatening political stability. The Venezuelan oil sector provides over 96% of the country's export revenues, 25% of GDP and about half of its fiscal revenues.
University students and civil society groups are likely to continue staging anti-government protests and roadblocks despite incumbent president Nicolás Maduro's calls for dialogue. The protests, which Maduro has said constitute a "coup in motion", have continued despite heavy use of force by the security forces. A total 18 people have been killed during the protests – most of them protesters – and hundreds of others have been wounded or arrested, amid reports of human rights violations including excessive use of force, the use of live ammunition, shooting rubber bullets at short distance, and even allegations of torture reported by local human rights group Foro Penal Venezolano. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have all condemned the violence and both the EU and US have joined calls from human rights groups for the judiciary not to be used to persecute opposition leaders and dissidents.
The day Steve Jobs died, after a much publicised battle with cancer, Apple’s shares rose in the stock market - analysts called it “a tribute”. The next year Apple’s stock continued its steady rise, becoming the most valued company ever as measured by market capitalisation. His successor - Tim Cook - had long been in the making, assuring the market he could handle the company after Jobs was gone. Yet, as time goes by, Apple, its shareholders, Cook, and the millions of users around world, are painfully reminded that perhaps there can only be one Steve Jobs - and Apple - as it was, can only be under his tutelage. This lesson could serve Nicolas Maduro well, as he faces the daunting task of governability and survival of the Bolivarian revolution without the charisma of its colourful founder.
This year Venezuela celebrated 201 years since its declaration of independence on 5 July 1811. Hugo Chávez took this opportunity to talk about the nation’s independence hero: Simón Bolívar. Bolívar liberated Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Panama of Spanish rule and is considered a revered figure in these countries, especially in Venezuela. Chávez often claims that he is fulfilling Bolívar’s dreams and living by his ideology, thus he calls his movement “la Revolucion Bolívariana” (or the Bolívarian Revolution) in honour of the South American independence hero. But how much of Chávez’ policies and rhetoric actually fit with Bolívar’s vision for the continent?
Military intervention in Syria “would benefit the US the most”. This is the conclusion drawn by two respected authors, Michael Doran and Max Boot, about the current situation in Syria and the way the US and the West should respond to it. They are by no means the only voices supporting such a move. On the contrary, Doran and Boot epitomise the opinion of a growing number of people arguing in favour of a US-led military intervention to stop the conflict. Here, I take issue with each of the five reasons these experts presented to support their position and suggest that the international community, and the US in particular, should think twice before embarking in another military adventure in the Middle East.