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April 27, 2017

Daily News Brief

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Venezuela to Exit Regional Bloc Amid Deepening Crisis

Venezuela announced it will withdraw from the Organization of American States (OAS) following the regional bloc's call for a meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the country's political and economic crisis (NYT). Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez accused the organization of "intrusive, arbitrary, illegal, deviant and crude actions." OAS Secretary-General Luis Amargo had campaigned to suspend Venezuela (Miami Herald), where more than two dozen people have died in protests in recent weeks, over the government's jailing political rivals and delaying elections. An OAS spokesperson said Venezuela must pay $8.7 million in dues (WSJ) it owes the bloc before leaving.


"The move increases Venezuela's isolation while its government is struggling to put down mass street protests demanding new elections. And it shows that the country—which, through anticapitalist rhetoric and oil largess, once aimed to challenge the United States as a power in Latin America—is becoming something of a pariah in its own region," Nicholas Casey writes for the New York Times.

"The fact that the U.S. State Department chose not to take on an assertive, public role at the OAS allowed Latin American countries such as Mexico and Peru to take the lead. It also made it politically palatable for countries usually reticent to pressure Venezuela to get involved. Many in Latin America see the OAS, with its headquarters in Washington, as a facade for U.S. intervention," David Smilde writes for the World Politics Review.

"The U.S. approach to Venezuela thus far represents a rare instance in this administration's foreign policy where diplomacy—the notion of working with others and leveraging multilateral institutions—is prevailing over strongman-ism. It is the proper course; diplomats are scoring important wins for U.S. leadership and regional cooperation," Juan S. Gonzalez writes for Foreign Policy


U.S. Begins Installing Korean Defense Shield

The United States began installation of a missile defense shield in South Korea (WaPo) a week after securing the required property. The move came as the Trump administration told lawmakers it will tighten economic sanctions (Korea Times) and pursue diplomatic measures to address North Korea's nuclear weapons threat.

CFR's Scott A. Snyder and Sungtae "Jacky" Park discuss the strategic options facing South Korea for the East Asia Forum.

TAIWAN: President Tsai Ing-wen said that Taiwan does not "exclude the opportunity" (Reuters) to call President Donald J. Trump. Trump received a phone call from Tsai in December, sparking concern over his intent to continue support for the U.S. One China policy.


Five Dead in Kashmir Attack

Three Indian soldiers and two rebel suspects were killed near Kashmir's Line of Control (Al Jazeera) after fighters attacked a military camp, according to officials. The Jammu and Kashmir state government ordered internet service providers on Wednesday to block social networks (NYT) in response to growing protests there.

SRI LANKA: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed a memorandum of understanding (VOA) for planned Indian investment in Sri Lanka's Trincomalee port. China recently invested in the construction of a new port in the town of Hambantota (Bloomberg).


Israeli Minister Claims Damascus Airport Strike

Israel's intelligence minister said that a Thursday strike near the Damascus International Airport (Guardian) against a suspected Hezbollah arms supply point was carried out by Israel.

JORDAN: The government cabinet voted to abolish an article in the penal code that permits the pardoning of sexual assault if perpetrators marry their victims (Al Jazeera). The provision must be approved by parliament.


South African Court Rejects Nuclear Plans

A South African court blocked government plans with Russia, South Korea, and the United States to develop nuclear power plants (DW), ruling that it failed to sufficiently consult the public and conduct proper environmental assessments.

NIGERIA: President Muhammadu Buhari is seeking congressional approval to take out a $6 billion loan (FT) from the Export-Import Bank of China for railway projects.


More Than a Thousand Detained in Turkish Raids

Turkish officials detained more than a thousand people they accuse of having links to a U.S.-based cleric (NYT) who allegedly orchestrated a failed coup attempt there last July. The crackdown, in which the government also suspended 9,100 police officers and deported four foreigners (WaPo) working for a medical relief charity, is the largest in months.

CFR's Steven A. Cook writes that Turkey's Erdogan was not authoritarian all along in the Washington Post.

EUROPE: The European Commission's index for business and consumer confidence in the eurozone's economy rose to its highest level since 2007 (WSJ).


Paraguayan Lawmakers Reject President’s Reelection

Paraguay's lower house rejected a constitutional amendment that would allow President Horacio Cartes to seek reelection (BBC) following protests against him over the proposal.


Trump Softens Stance on NAFTA

President Trump spoke by phone with his Mexican and Canadian counterparts (Reuters) to tell them that he will not immediately order the United States' withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and instead favors renegotiating the deal (Bloomberg).

This CFR Backgrounder explores NAFTA's economic impact.

White House advisor Ivanka Trump said that admitting Syrian refugees to the United States "has to be part of the discussion" (NYT) in addressing the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East.

This CFR Backgrounder explains the United States’ system for refugee admissions