Top of the Agenda: Maduro Wins Venezuelan Presidency
Nicolás Maduro, the heir to former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, narrowly defeated Henrique Capriles in Venezuela's presidential election yesterday. Maduro won 50.6 percent of the vote (WSJ), impelling Capriles to call for a full recount. The opposition leader alleged there were more than three thousand election-related incidents that undermined the final result. Venezuela's new leader faces mounting economic challenges, including an inflation rate expected to rise above 30 percent and a budget deficit at around 15 percent of GDP.
"Maduro lacks his predecessor's charisma. He is a talented politician, able to strike deals among competing factions, but he does not have Chávez's popular appeal. Chávez was a superb communicator, employing mass media and new technologies, such as Twitter, to reach millions of followers. Maduro, by contrast, seems less concerned about gaining popular support and will likely rely on state patronage networks and social programs to shore up his position," writes Michael Penfold for Foreign Affairs.
"In their ongoing efforts to delegitimize Venezuela's government, the punditry and press often portray the Chávistas as having an unfair advantage in these elections. But this election, like the presidential election in October, was conducted on about as level a playing field as any in the region. The Chávistas have the government, but the opposition has most of the wealth and income of the country, as well as the majority of the media," writes Mark Weisbrot for the Guardian.
"Since the Bolivarian Revolution began, Maduro has been a visible public figure. He was part of the constituent assembly that wrote the nation's charter in 1999. He was also a member of Congress until 2005. After that, he was named foreign minister and held the post until late last year. As such, he was in charge of Hugo Chávez's visible but controversial foreign policies, crisscrossing the globe and frequently seen hobnobbing heads of state," writes Juan Nagel for Foreign Policy.
U.S. Offers Talks With North Korea
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday suggested the United States could initiate direct diplomatic negotiations with North Korea if it jettisoned its nuclear weapons program (NYT). The offer comes amid rising diplomatic tensions in the Pacific, fueled by North Korean threats to test-fire a Musudan medium-range missile.
Rather than seeking regime overthrow in North Korea and Iran, Washington should pursue an updated version of Soviet-era containment policy, says expert Robert Litwak in this CFR interview.
CHINA: Chinese economic growth slowed (WSJ) from 7.9 percent in the last quarter of 2012 to 7.7 percent in the first quarter of 2013, China's National Bureau of Statistics announced today.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Rising Unemployment in Afghanistan
The Afghan government said rising unemployment, due to a decline in international aid, is contributing to insecurity (al-Jazeera) in the country. The government said it needs to create around 500,000 new jobs to fight an insurgency empowered by the recent reduction in coalition troops.
PAKISTAN: Two suspected Taliban militants shot and killed two election campaigners (AFP) in northwest Pakistan today, following a string of related attacks against secular parties participating in national elections on May 11.
Pakistan's stability is of great consequence to regional and international security. Examine the roots of its challenges, what it means for the region and the world, and explore some plausible futures for the country with this CFR Crisis Guide.
Deadly Attacks Across Iraq
Insurgents carried out a wave of car bombings and shootings across Iraq today, killing at least thirty-two people and wounding more than two hundred. The attacks come just five days ahead of local elections (AP), the first since U.S. troops withdrew from the country at the end of 2011.
SYRIA: The Syrian government yesterday allegedly carried out two air strikes (BBC)--one in a Damascus suburb and another in the northeast Hasaka province--that left at least twenty-five people dead, including a number of children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
International efforts to resolve Syria's ongoing civil war remain hampered by big power divisions, says this CFR Backgrounder.
Al-Shabaab Launches Attacks in Mogadishu
Somalia's militant Islamist group al-Shabaab carried out coordinated bombings and shootings in the capital of Mogadishu yesterday, including an attack on the courts, killing more than thirty people (Reuters) and injuring at least twenty.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Weekend clashes between residents of the capital of Bangui and fighters from the Seleka rebel coalition (AFP), which seized power in a coup at the end of March, left at least twelve people dead.
Canada's Liberal Party yesterday elected Justin Trudeau (Globe&Mail), whose father served as prime minster for fifteen years, to be its new leader, as the centrist party seeks to revive its once-dominant position in Canadian politics.