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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
March 7, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Venezuela Violence and Protests Continue

Antigovernment protestors clashed with security forces and government supporters in Caracas on Thursday, resulting in the death of a Venezuelan soldier and a motorcyclist, bringing the death toll from nearly a month of demonstrations to twenty (Reuters). The Organization of American States held a closed-door meeting on the crisis, a step that was rejected by Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, who has called the protestors "fascists" and "saboteurs" seeking to overthrow his government (Bloomberg). The president defended his administration's response, saying that if the United States faced a similar situation, Washington would confront violent efforts to change the constitution and unseat President Obama (CNN).


"In 2003, Chávez instituted currency controls after a major oil strike crippled the country's economy… They failed to have the desired effect. Eleven years later, they have profoundly lessened businesses' incentives to produce and import goods, and have divided the country between those with access to hard currency and those without," writes Girish Gupta in the New Yorker.

"It is all a sad reflection of the dream that Chávez once held out. With characteristic generosity of spirit, even if paid for by Venezuela's oil wealth, he wanted to build a shining citadel on the hill, with justice for all. Since then, there has been social improvement but little justice, and less shining. Venezuela has instead become a malandro, or hoodlum, nation, that only other thuggish states admire," the Financial Times writes in an editorial.

"Opposition leaders currently aim to topple the democratically elected government—their stated goal—by portraying it as a repressive dictatorship that is cracking down on peaceful protest. This is a standard 'regime change' strategy, which often includes violent demonstrations in order to provoke state violence," writes Mark Weisbrot in the Guardian.


Pacific Rim

China’s Smog in Western Region Stirs Protests

China's plan to clear smog from Beijing by shifting power plants to the less populated western part of the country inhabited by restive minorities has prompted protests (Bloomberg).

This CFR Backgrounder explains China's environmental crisis.

SOUTH KOREA: Smartphone and electronics maker Samsung has filed ten times as many European patents as rival Apple, the latest sign in the escalating "patents arms race" between the companies (FT).


South and Central Asia

India Expands Its Arms Industry

India, the world's largest arms importer, has recently manufactured fighter jets, tanks, and ships, marking a shift to a reliance on local weapons that could threaten Russia, which sends nearly a third of its arms exports to India (NYT).

INDIA: Dozens of students from the disputed territory of Kashmir were expelled from their university because they cheered for the Pakistani cricket team during a televised match against India (al-Jazeera).


Middle East

Syria to Miss Deadline to Destroy Chemical Arms Sites

The Syrian government, which has missed several deadlines in a U.S.-Russian agreement to dismantle its chemical weapons program, will likely fail to destroy its chemical weapons production facilities by March 15, Reuters reports.

LEBANON: A Baghdad-bound flight was forced to return to Beirut shortly after takeoff because the son of Iraq's transport minister didn't board on time (Now Lebanon).



Muslim Communities Emptied in the Central African Republic

French and African Union peacekeepers haven't been able to protect Muslims in the Central African Republic, who have fled the country and left their communities empty after being targeted by anti-balaka militias (Human Rights Watch).

NIGERIA: Five government colleges were closed in the northeast Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states after a series of deadly attacks attributed to Boko Haram (AFP).

This CFR Backgrounder charts the origins and evolution of Boko Haram.



Putin Ignores Obama’s Ukraine Warnings

President Barack Obama's warnings to Russia over the past week have been brushed aside by President Vladimir Putin, who has taken control of Ukraine's Crimea region despite the threat of sanctions by the United States and the European Union (AP).

This CFR Backgrounder explains Ukraine's deadliest crisis since its post-Soviet independence.

RUSSIA: The speaker of Russia's upper house of parliament said Friday that the body will support Crimea in its bid to join the Russian Federation (WSJ).



Cuba to Start EU Talks on Bilateral Relations

Cuba has accepted the European Union's invitation to talks on restoring bilateral relations, which the bloc restricted in 1996 over the issues of human rights and the introduction of multiparty democracy (BBC).

This CFR Backgrounder explains U.S.-Cuba relations.



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