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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
March 6, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Hugo Chávez's Death Raises Questions for Venezuela's Future

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, a self-proclaimed Bolivarian revolutionary who ruled the country for fourteen years and was reelected for a fourth term in October, died on Tuesday (BBC) at the age of fifty-eight after a two-year battle with cancer. His death raises myriad questions for the political future of the country; while Vice President Nicolás Maduro, Chávez's hand-picked successor, will take over as interim president (MercoPress), elections will be organized in the next thirty days. Maduro will likely face opposition from Henrique Capriles, the centrist governor of Miranda state, who lost against Chávez in the latest election.


"The country's vice president and Chávez's designated successor, Nicolás Maduro, is in the strongest position, but Diosdado Cabello, the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly and a Chavista camp, as does Rafael Ramírez, president of the state-owned petroleum company. Meanwhile, the opposition remains weak and lacks a coherent, unified platform," writes Michael Shifter for Foreign Affairs.

"What will [Chávez's supporters] see? A Socialist party that remains the strongest political force in the country. But also inefficiency, mismanagement and a government that lacks both the surplus petro-dollars and the charisma of its progenitor that once sustained it. That is when the final reckoning of chavismo may come," writes John Paul Rathbone for the Financial Times.

"Perhaps only the Cuban leadership can preserve unity among the chavistas. The stakes are high. Cuba's president, Raúl Castro, knows that the loss of Venezuelan oil would plunge his country's economy deeper into penury. A majority of Venezuelans may eventually come to see that Mr Chávez squandered an extraordinary opportunity for his country, to use an unprecedented oil boom to equip it with world-class infrastructure and to provide the best education and health services money can buy," writes The Economist.



North Korea Threatens to End Cease-Fire

Pyongyang threatened to abandon the cease-fire (Yonhap) with South Korea on Tuesday in protest of the annual military exercises the South is conducting with the United States, as well as international efforts to impose new sanctions on the North in the wake of its third nuclear test.

MALAYSIA: An air and ground assault by Malaysian forces killed at least thirteen (NYT) of the nearly 200 Filipino militants seeking to reclaim part of Borneo Island.



Pakistani Foreign Secretary Blames Foreign Forces

Pakistan's foreign secretary said on Wednesday that the role of foreign forces (al-Arabiya) in Afghanistan led to terrorism in the country. The United States plans to withdraw all troops by the end of 2014 and is encouraging Afghanistan to engage Taliban militants for a peaceful end to the conflict.

AFGHANISTAN: Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on his security forces to end incidents of torture (AP), a shift from past speeches that have solely blamed NATO troops for the violations.



Lebanon Calls on Arab League to Reinstate Syria

Lebanon's foreign minister on Wednesday called for Syria's suspension (Reuters) from the Arab League to be lifted in a bid to find a political solution to the war. Damascus had been suspended in November 2011, eight months into the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

SYRIA: The UN reported that one million Syrian refugees (Independent) have fled the war-torn country. Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt have shouldered most of the influx.

CFR President Richard Haass lays out what Secretary of State John Kerry must do in the Middle East in this op-ed.



Electronic Polling Holding Up Kenya Vote Count

Problems with electronic systems have slowed the tallying of Kenya's election results, which have so far showed Uhuru Kenyatta to be in the lead with 53 percent of the vote (BBC). Kenyatta faces trial at the International Criminal Court over charges of orchestrating post-poll violence in 2007.

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick talks about democracy's decline and the case of Kenya in this expert brief.

NIGERIA: The leader of a Muslim sect in northern Nigeria urged President Goodluck Jonathan to grant amnesty (DailyTrust) to Boko Haram fighters in order to restore peace in the North.

This CFR blog post delves into how unstable oil markets are affecting Nigerian society.



EU Hits Microsoft With Antitrust Fine

European Union regulators hit Microsoft Corp. with a $732.2 million fine after the company broke a pledge to offer users a choice of rival Web browsers (WSJ). The penalty marks a firm sanction by the EU, which is also in a dispute with Google over its ranking of search engine results.

U.K.: An inquiry (Independent) examining Britain's part in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 will likely challenge the official version of events when it reports later this year.



Rebel Bombings in Colombia Cut Power

Three bombings on Tuesday stopped electricity and water service in the Colombian port city of Tumaco. Authorities blamed the attack on leftist FARC rebels (LAHT), who are currently on a recess from peace talks they have been conducting with the government since last November.



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