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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
February 25, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Venezuela Unrest Grows

Governor Henrique Capriles, an opposition leader who ran against Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro in 2012, rejected talks with the president as the death toll from protests rose to thirteen (Bloomberg). More than five hundred people have been charged over the unrest, which began on February 12 with protests over shortages, high inflation, and rising crime, and is now considered the biggest challenge to Maduro's ten-month-old government (Reuters). Protestors plan to march on the Cuban embassy on Tuesday, accusing Havana of "interfering" in Venezuela, and on Monday they caused traffic jams after erecting barricades on major streets in Caracas and elsewhere (AP).


"Repression, in Venezuela, comes not only in the form of tear gas and rubber bullets. The government has also mobilized its sprawling propaganda apparatus—newspapers and radio stations, half a dozen TV stations, hundreds of websites—in a concerted campaign of vilification to demonize the protest leaders as a shadowy fascist cabal in cahoots with American imperialists. The claim is outlandish, yet its ceaseless repetition reveals that to the Venezuelan government, all dissent is treason," writes Francisco Toro in the New York Times.

"In Ukraine, the European Union has pressured the government to reach a compromise with the opposition. Venezuelans are getting no such help from the neighbors. Only Colombia, Chile and Panama have objected to the crackdown. The rest of the hemisphere doesn't have even a passing interest in human rights when the violations come from the left. The Organization of American States is supposed to defend civil liberties, but since Chilean Socialist José Miguel Insulza took the OAS helm in 2005, it has earned a disgraceful record as a shill for Cuba," writes Mary O'Grady in the Wall Street Journal.

"Danger lies in discontent in the barrios and pueblos, the hillside slums and dusty villages that comprise core support. It almost sank the revolution a month after Chávez's death from cancer last March when Maduro, despite lopsided advantages in money, media and institutional control, managed just a narrow, contested election victory over opposition leader Henrique Capriles. That was a sign that government patronage and handouts—jobs, subsidies, houses, electrical goods—were no longer sufficient compensation for the shortages, inflation and crime," writes Rory Carroll for the Guardian.


Pacific Rim

China’s Property Market Cools Down

China's property market is showing signs of a slowdown, with price acceleration declining for the first time in a year as credit for developers tightens and some discounts at new housing projects emerging. Beijing has tried to cool down the market for years, but a sharp decline may hamper growth in the broader economy (WSJ).

CHINA: A resident of Shijiazhuang in northern China is suing his local government over the high levels of air pollution, and is demanding the government do more to control the smog (BBC).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the environmental crisis in China.


South and Central Asia

Pakistan Bombs Militants in Waziristan

Pakistani jets bombed what they believed to be militant hideouts in Waziristan near the Afghan border, home to Pakistani Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other militant groups. Officials say the strike killed thirty militants (NYT).

This CFR Backgrounder explains Pakistan's new generation of terrorists.

INDIA: Power outages in India may worsen as the government plans to double the price of natural gas on April 1 to spur more output from its gas fields at the risk that electricity generators may switch to coal (Bloomberg).


Middle East

Israel Reportedly Strikes Area on Lebanon-Syria Border

Israeli jets have reportedly bombed Hezbollah targets along the Lebanon-Syria border, according to Lebanese security officials. Israel, which rarely confirms its air strikes, has carried out several attacks inside Syria over the past year (al-Jazeera).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the Syrian conflict and the global response to the crisis.

IRAQ: Iran has signed an agreement to sell Iraq $195 million in arms and ammunition, a deal that would break a United Nations embargo on weapons sales by Tehran (National).



Boko Haram Kills Students at Boarding School

Fighters with Islamist militant group Boko Haram killed twenty-nine students at a boarding school in the northeastern Nigerian state of Yobe, many of whom died as the school was burned to the ground (Reuters).

UGANDA: A newspaper published a list of the country's "200 top" homosexuals, one day after a harsh antigay law was enacted (AP).

This CFR Backgrounder explains same-sex marriage laws in six countries.



Russia Questions Legitimacy of Ukraine’s Interim Government

Russian officials questioned the legitimacy of the interim leadership and accused it of making a power grab and attempting to suppress dissent in Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine through "terrorist methods" (WaPo).

UKRAINE: Leaked documents revealed that Viktor Yanukovich's government had plans for a massive crackdown on protestors in Kiev using thousands of police and troops (FT).



Hagel Unveils Plan to Shrink the Military

The Obama administration proposed a military budget that would shrink the army to its lowest troop levels since before World War II. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who unveiled the plan, said the current size of the military is larger than required and "larger than we can afford" (LATimes).

CFR's Max Boot explains in this Commentary article the incoherence in the defense budget cuts.



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