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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
March 26, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Venezuela Arrests Three Generals for Alleged Coup Plot

Venezuela arrested three air force generals accused of plotting a coup, President Nicolás Maduro announced Tuesday. The president linked the officers to the political opposition (LAHT) during a meeting with foreign ministers from the South American bloc UNASUR, who were greeted by dozens of student protestors (AP). Bonds rallied on Tuesday's rollout of a new foreign exchange system that is seen as a first step toward resolving the chronic shortage of dollars, which has caused widespread shortages and inflation (FT). But in its first day, the new currency market failed to meet pent-up demand, and the bolivar saw its biggest slide in a year on the black market. Fitch Ratings, meanwhile, downgraded Venezuela's outlook to B (Bloomberg).


"President Maduro expresses the need for dialogue and has met with the leading producers and manufacturers in Venezuela. However, two weeks later he threatened and charged political opponents, most recently the mayors of San Cristobal and San Diego. In this climate, the opposition is wary of entering into dialogue and has raised their conditions for talks. These now include the removal of Cuban officers from the Venezuelan military. Consequently, prospects for dialogue between the government and political oppositions are dim," writes Diana Villiers Negroponte for Brookings Up Front.

"The question the U.S. confronts now is how best it can speak out against human rights and democratic violations in Venezuela without inflaming an already polarized situation and jeopardizing the principles it seeks to defend. The potential U.S. response is limited by three factors: the Venezuelan government's predictable but effective nationalistic appeals to sovereignty and victimization, an opposition that too often has overplayed its hand in the past and the failure of regional governments to enforce the very norms to which they are signatories," writes Christopher Sabatini in World Politics Review.

"To be silent is to be complicit in the downward spiral of Venezuela's political system, economy and society, not to mention in the continued misery of millions. Many current leaders in Latin America suffered similar abuses in their time and they should not be silent accomplices to the abuses of today. For Venezuelans, a change in leadership can be accomplished entirely within a constitutional and legal framework. We must advocate for human rights; freedom of expression; the right to property, housing, health and education; equality within the judicial system, and, of course, the right of protest," writes former Chacao mayor Leopoldo López in the New York Times.


Pacific Rim

North Korea Tests Missiles as Rivals Meet

North Korea test-fired two medium-range ballistic missiles on Tuesday as the leaders of its rivals South Korea, Japan, and the United States met in the Netherlands, where their discussion centered on the security threat posed by the North (Japan Times).

CHINA: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama discussed free speech and minority rights (NYT) on a weeklong trip to China. State television censored part of her remarks at Beijing's Peking University, but the microblog platform Weibo published them in full. Her trip concludes Wednesday in Chengdu.

This Backgrounder explains the state of media censorship in China.


South and Central Asia

WHO Report: Air Pollution Kills Seven Million Annually

One out of every eight deaths in 2012 was tied to dirty air, twice as many as previously estimated, the World Health Organization found in a report released Tuesday. The most affected populations live in the fast-developing economies stretching from China to India (NYT).

PAKISTAN: Government negotiators arrived in North Waziristan on Wednesday to begin talks with the Pakistani Taliban. They hope to extend the one-month cease-fire the TTP announced at the start of March (Express Tribune).


Middle East

Kerry, Abbas to Discuss Framework in Amman

U.S. secretary of state John Kerry flies to Amman on Wednesday to meet with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, who he hopes will sign on to a U.S.-brokered framework agreement for extending Israeli-Palestinian talks, slated to end at the end of April. Kerry will rejoin President Obama in Riyadh (Haaretz).

IRAQ: Members of Iraq's electoral commission tendered letters of resignation en masse on Tuesday in protest of what they claim has been political interference ahead of April 30 elections (BBC).

A legislative proposal threatens to set back the cause of gender equality, CFR's Isobel Coleman writes in Foreign Affairs.



Kenya Confines Refugees in Camps

Kenya has ordered all refugees living in urban areas to return to refugee camps in a bid to end attacks carried out in retaliation for Kenya's intervention in Somalia, where its troops are part of an African Union peacekeeping mission. Two were killed and 476 arrested in overnight raids in a neighborhood with a large Somali population, police said (al-Jazeera).

ETHIOPIA: Ethiopia is using telecommunications surveillance technology imported from European and Chinese firms to spy on citizens, including journalists and opposition activists, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Tuesday (AFP).



Nuclear Summit Closes With Reduction Commitments, Security Agreements

The nuclear summit in The Hague closed on Tuesday with more than thirty countries agreeing to adopt more stringent security guidelines, but nuclear heavyweights China, Russia, India, and Pakistan did not sign on. Several countries also announced their intention to reduce nuclear materials in their possession (WSJ).

Stewart Patrick and Claire Schacter discuss elements of a successful nuclear summit.

RUSSIA: U.S. president Barack Obama acknowledged that Crimea was likely to remain under Moscow's control, but rejected that Russia had returned as a superpower, calling it a "regional power" acting "out of weakness" (FT). Obama is expected to call for unity with Europe in a speech in Brussels Wednesday evening after meeting with EU and NATO officials (WaPo).



White House to Extend Health-Care Enrollment Period

The Obama administration announced that consumers who have begun to enroll in the federal marketplace by the March 30 deadline would have until mid-April to qualify for an extension (WaPo).



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