Venezuelan commandos patrol the Antimano neighborhood of Caracas, Jan. 29, 2019 (AP photo by Rodrigo Abd).

Venezuela’s authoritarian president, Nicolas Maduro, has managed to stay in power for eight years despite remaining profoundly unpopular, overseeing a spectacular economic collapse and facing years of opposition efforts to dislodge him. There’s little doubt Maduro has outplayed his opponents, and yet, his hold on the country is more tenuous than it seems. The democratic opposition has indeed failed to remove him. But under Maduro, Venezuela is increasingly becoming a land of militias, warlords and criminal gangs. As they gradually divide the country into fiefdoms, the state’s footprint is steadily shrinking. The government’s sway beyond the capital city is significantly […]

Marla Ruzicka leads a demonstration calling for U.S. compensation to victims of the U.S. led military campaign in Afghanistan, outside of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, April 7, 2002 (AP photo by Suzanne Plunkett).

Last week, just two days after U.S. President Joe Biden announced his decision to withdraw the last U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the humanitarian community commemorated the death of Marla Ruzicka, a humanitarian hero from the early years of the war there. A college student when the Twin Towers fell, Marla recognized that the U.S. invasion would weigh hard on civilians, and rather than watch from afar, she bought herself a ticket to Afghanistan to do something about it. Landing in Kabul, Marla set about making friends with U.S. soldiers, expatriate aid workers and local Afghans alike. More […]

U.S. soldiers, part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, patrol west of Kabul, Afghanistan (AP photo by Hoshang Hashimi).

Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden announced his decision to fully withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan by Sept.11. After 20 years and two generations of American service members fighting there, America’s longest war will come to an end. What will the legacy of that war be for the U.S. military? And will it have a lasting impact on American society? In this week’s big picture Trend Lines interview, Andrew Exum joins WPR editor-in-chief Judah Grunstein to discuss those questions and more. Exum is a partner at Hakluyt & Company, a global advisory firm. He began his career as an officer […]

An array of solar panels in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, northwestern China, Oct. 10, 2015 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, China Note, which includes a look at a top story as well as a roundup of the rest of the week’s news and commentary from and about China. Subscribe to receive it by email every Wednesday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. The United States and China struck a rare cooperative tone in a joint statement issued after two days of meetings between John Kerry, the Biden administration’s climate envoy, and his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, in […]

Girls chant slogans at a protest in front of the U.N. building in Sanaa, Yemen, May 12, 2016 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

It is easy to forget how quickly outsiders’ ideas about places like Yemen changed during the early days of the Arab Spring uprisings that began a decade ago—and how quickly those new impressions faded when the uprisings did not deliver rapid transformation. Such short memories are proving costly for Yemeni women, who gained a place at the political table during and after the 2011 protest movement that ousted then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s autocratic regime, only to be shunted aside amid the violent conflict and international indifference that has plagued the country since. With a cease-fire deal reportedly in the offing […]

A supporter of the political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or Movement of Justice, takes part in a rally against the U.S. drone strikes in Pakistani tribal areas, in Peshawar, Pakistan, April 23, 2011 (AP photo by Mohammad Sajjad).

When it comes to armed drones, is smaller and more precise necessarily better? The question came to my mind upon seeing the news that the U.S. Air Force just successfully test-launched a new weaponizable drone, the ALTIUS-600, making it the smallest drone in operation. Even more remarkably, this tiny aircraft was launched from the second-smallest-drone, the Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie, while the Valkyrie was in flight. There is nothing objectionable about the development of mini-drones. One could even argue they would be improvements, in humanitarian terms, over the use of the much larger Reaper to deliver 500-pound bombs in allegedly “precise” […]

An elderly woman gets her shot of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 in Mexico City, March 8, 2021 (AP photo by Marco Ugarte).

The White House’s announcement last month that the United States will offer millions of coronavirus vaccines to its two immediate neighbors, Mexico and Canada, is a welcome step toward the reversal of the Trump administration’s “America First” policies. But for humanitarian, economic and strategic reasons, it must be just the first step toward an intentional program of U.S. leadership to vaccinate the Americas. In the global struggle against COVID-19, Latin American and Caribbean countries have fallen behind. Weak health systems, uncertain leadership, high numbers of informal workers and bad luck have created a perfect storm in the region. Even as […]

A Tigrayan refugee woman sits in front of her shelter at Hamdeyat Transition Center, near the Sudan-Ethiopia border, eastern Sudan, March 14, 2021 (AP photo by Nariman El-Mofty).

Millions of people in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region are facing starvation. Until now, it’s been a crisis without pictures. Those wrenching images of emaciated children and mothers with dull-eyed gazes, so sadly familiar from famine zones, have yet to emerge. But that’s because journalists aren’t permitted to travel to the worst-hit areas of Tigray, where hunger is deepening by the day. When the media can finally get access, or when starving villagers abandon their homes and flee to towns, the pictures will surely remind viewers of drought victims from Ethiopia’s 1984 famine, which prompted the famous LiveAid benefit concert and […]

Students who were abducted by gunmen in Zamfara state after their release, in Gusau, northern Nigeria, March 2, 2021 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

Nigeria is once again facing a challenge that has grown all too familiar: children in peril. Kidnappings first gained international prominence in 2014, when the jihadist group Boko Haram abducted 276 schoolgirls from their boarding school in the northeastern town of Chibok. Despite a global media campaign to urge their safe return, #BringBackOurGirls, more than 100 of them are still missing today. Many more children have been abducted since then—and the trend could get even worse. Over the past four months, armed groups have raided boarding schools and kidnapped more than 650 students. In perhaps the most prominent of these […]