Most of the U.S. foreign policy community assumes that relations between the United States and Venezuela can only improve in the aftermath of Hugo Chavez’s death. Exemplifying this optimism, the Obama administration’s initial reaction was to note that as a “new chapter” begins in Venezuela, Washington reaffirms “its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government.” The U.S. response was based on the hope that any successor to Chavez will be interested in repairing the breach that opened up between the two nations during the almost 13 years of Chavez’s tenure. But nothing should be taken for granted. […]

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on the outlook for Mali after the initial phase of the military intervention. Part I looked at the military challenges ahead. Part II examines the political and economic challenges ahead. Much of the domestic and international attention on Mali is focused on the fierce fighting going on in the north between French and Chadian troops and elements of the Islamist militant groups the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. But both the Malian government and the international community would do well to […]

The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez after a long battle with cancer was announced yesterday by Vice President Nicolás Maduro, who has assumed the presidency as interim leader. Chávez had served as Venezuela’s president for 14 years. The news has led to widespread speculation over the future of Venezuela and the region. An expert who spoke with Trend Lines addressed what Chávez’s long absence from Venezuela’s political scene and his death might mean for Venezuelan democracy. “What happened over the past three months, which is to say that a democratically elected president literally disappeared from his country and was […]

In March 2011, after Hosni Mubarak’s fall, when Egyptian protesters stormed and ransacked the offices of State Security Investigations (SSI) throughout the country, it appeared that efforts to reform Egypt’s chastened police force had achieved broad social and political consensus. Yet, two years later, accountability for past crimes, including those committed during the uprising, remains lacking, and the Ministry of Interior remains wholly unreformed and often brutal. Scenes of police violence have once again become commonplace, reaching a peak in Port Said in late-January, when more than 30 people, including two police officers, were killed. This weekend’s bloody clashes in […]

As South America’s middle class continues to grow, two important political priorities will increasingly clash: the need to meet growing energy demand, and an increasing sensitivity to the environment. Until these legitimate interests can be reconciled, however, the massive investment required to meet burgeoning energy demand across the region will be less likely to materialize. Brazil, whose Belo Monte Dam project is one of the most ambitious public works projects in the region, offers an excellent case in point. The project has been controversial since its inception in the 1970s, during the Brazilian dictatorship. Opponents successfully stalled the project due […]

A bomb blast in a Shiite district of Karachi, Pakistan, killed at least 45 people Sunday in the latest example of escalating sectarian and ethnic violence in the country. Hassan Abbas, a former Pakistani government official who is now an academic and a senior adviser to the Asia Society, told Trend Lines that relations between South Asia’s Sunni and Shiite Muslim communities have historically been cordial, but that the recent uptick in sectarian attacks is linked to growing tension and violence in the region more generally. “Religious bigotry, ignorance, ethnic tensions and regional tensions are driving this trend,” Abbas said […]

President Hugo Chávez’s return to Venezuela has not resolved the political uncertainty that the country has faced since he was unable to take the oath of office on Jan. 10. The day before, the Supreme Court ruled that he could be sworn in when he overcame his health problems and gave no deadline, effectively allowing an unelected vice president to remain in charge indefinitely. Opposition politicians and analysts, questioning the legitimacy of the current arrangement, have called for the court to declare Chávez in a “temporary absence” from the presidency — which the constitution allows for a maximum of six […]

At the beginning of the 1980s, governments controlled the energy sector in all the major Latin American countries. Over the next two decades, however, the combination of low energy prices and a lack of state capital to support exploration and production by national oil companies’ (NOCs) forced energy policy reforms in every country. These took the form of market-oriented policies emphasizing privatization, liberalization and fiscal discipline, known as the Washington Consensus. While the consensus prevailed, hydrocarbon rents went overwhelmingly to private firms, and the promised benefits of economic reforms turned out to be short-lived, if they materialized at all; the […]

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