September 12th, 2012
08:07 AM ET

Are criminals, terrorists, and Bolivarians teaming up against America?

By Stewart Patrick, CFR

Stewart M. Patrick is director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. This entry of The Internationalist originally appeared here. The views expressed are those of the author.

On August 16, Doug Farah, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, published Transnational Organized Crime, Terrorism, and Criminalized States in Latin America: An Emerging Tier-One National Security Priority. The monograph contributes in a major way to our understanding of the increasingly complex relationships that exist among criminal networks, terrorists, and sovereign states.

One of its most original contributions is to get away from the tired conventional wisdom about “failed states” – which suggests that it is the world’s basket cases that present the greatest opportunities for exploitation by illicit actors. In Weak Links , I’ve also suggested that the most dysfunctional, chaotic, or even collapsed states, do not provide conducive environments for most forms of crime (or for transnational terrorists, for that matter), since they provide little operational security from interdiction and are often too far removed from the sinews of global commerce.

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Topics: Latin America • United States • Venezuela
Energy independence? No thanks
August 29th, 2012
02:22 PM ET

Energy independence? No thanks

By Kevin Massy and Govinda Avasarala, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Kevin Massy is associate director of the Energy Security Initiative at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. Govinda Avasarala is senior research assistant with the Energy Security Initiative. The views expressed are their own.

“Energy Independence” has been the rallying cry of politicians since the administration of Richard Nixon and an object of ridicule among cynical energy wonks for about as long. The truth is that the United States can rid itself of that pesky dependency on unreliable international markets. But maybe it isn’t such a good idea.

First, let’s establish what we’re talking about. When politicians rhapsodize about “energy independence” they are nearly always referring to oil. “Energy independence” suggests a scenario in which the United States supplies its own needs, islanded from international oil markets and unaffected by international disruptions to oil supply; a scenario in which unrest in Dhahran will not affect John Doe in Des Moines. To achieve this, the U.S. simply has to make sure that oil consumption always meets domestic oil production, and that all exports and imports are prohibited. But this is not as straightforward as it sounds.

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Topics: Energy • Environment • Oil • United States • Venezuela
Could Rafael Correa be the next Hugo Chavez?
August 2nd, 2012
11:48 AM ET

Could Rafael Correa be the next Hugo Chavez?

By Stephanie Leutert, CFR

Editor’s note: Stephanie Leutert is a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations. This article originally appeared in Latin America’s Moment here. The views expressed are those of the author.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has been in full campaign mode: speaking, singing, and exhorting the dangers of his opponent, Henrique Capríles Radonski. Despite his visible public activities, rumors and speculation continue to swirl, with attention focused on his health far more than on his policies. The prospect of a Venezuela without Chávez, and more broadly the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, or ALBA, and its regional initiatives, has led many to speculate who would or could fill the void. In the regional arena, Ecuador’s mercurial President Rafael Correa stands as a top contender.

The two leaders’ apparent bonhomie and similar policies have led some to joke that Correa seems already to be auditioning for the job. The left-leaning presidents share a common rhetoric (frequently labeling opponents as oligarchs or imperialists), charismatic personalities, a disdain for (and often exaggeration of) U.S. influence in the region, and a taste for forging relationships with some of the world’s most notorious pariah states (Iran and Belarus). In doing so, they have also whipped up strong domestic approval ratings (at 57 percent, Correa enjoys one of the highest in the hemisphere) and continuously survived elections (aided by uneven electoral playing fields).

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Topics: Venezuela
What's next? 5 elections to watch this year
Egyptian women gather near a polling station during parliamentary elections in January. In May, Egypt elects a president.
May 9th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

What's next? 5 elections to watch this year

By Kyle Almond, CNN

Two high-profile elections came to a head this past weekend, with voters in France and Greece taking their countries in a new direction.

But there’s still much more to watch for in 2012, a year in which nearly a third of the world’s countries are casting ballots.

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Topics: 2012 Election • Egypt • Elections • Europe • Mexico • United States • Venezuela
What comes after Chavez?
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez waves after his speech to the nation upon his return to the presidential palace Miraflores, in Caracas 14 April 2002. (Getty Images)
February 10th, 2012
08:34 AM ET

What comes after Chavez?

Editor’s Note: The following piece, exclusive to GPS, comes from Wikistrat, the world's first massively multiplayer online consultancy.  It leverages a global network of subject-matter experts via a crowd-sourcing methodology to provide unique insights.

This Sunday, the historically disorganized Venezuelan opposition movement is holding its first-ever presidential primary to decide upon a single candidate to challenge long-time strongman Hugo Chavez. With regional governor Henrique Capriles expected to prevail, the aging Chavez faces a younger version of himself: namely, a dynamic rising star promising to transform the political landscape. This time, however, the figure is moving it away from the heavy-handed populism initiated by Chavez after he swept into office in 1998.

Over the course of his tenure, Chavez’s pursuit of “21st century socialism” in Venezuela has propelled him to self-declared “president for life” status. Among his accomplishments are the systematic and brutal persecution of political opponents and critical journalists, the stacking of parliament with his supporters, various cash-payment programs to the voting poor to ensure his popularity, and - in a related dynamic - the general undermining (aka, looting) of the country’s primary economic engine, the national oil company known as PDVSA. Chavez has also turned Venezuela into one of the most crime-ridden nations in the world with the annual inflation averaging close to 30 percent. FULL POST

Topics: Venezuela
Capriles Radonski and the new Venezuelan opposition
Venezuelan candidate for the upcoming primaries, Henrique Capriles Radonski, of the opposition Democratic Unity coalition, delivers a speech during a ceremony in Caracas, on January 24, 2012. Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez resigned on Tuesday to his presidential aspirations in favor of Capriles, favorite to win the February 12 primary election and then face President Hugo Chavez in the October national election. (Getty Images)
January 26th, 2012
03:00 PM ET

Capriles Radonski and the new Venezuelan opposition

Editor's Note: Michael Penfold is Associate Professor at the Institute for Higher Administrative Studies in Caracas and co-author of Dragon in the Tropics: Hugo Chavez and the Political Economy of Revolution in Venezuela. 

By Michael Penfold, Foreign Affairs

In October, Venezuelans will head to the polls for the fourth presidential vote since Hugo Chávez took power in 1999. With the announcement earlier this week by Leopoldo Lopez that he is ending his candidacy and throwing his support to Henrique Capriles Radonski, the young and charismatic governor whom many expect to be Chávez's main contender, the opposition is gradually consolidating its power. It is slowly becoming a more serious challenge to the regime in Caracas, which remains electorally competitive itself.

The stakes are higher than at any point in the last decade, for both the government and the opposition. A Chávez defeat would signal the end of a leftist revolution that has radically transformed Venezuela and, some argue, Latin America in the twenty-first century. A Chávez victory, however, would inflict a fatal blow to a renewed opposition that has struggled, and now seems to be succeeding, to gain some traction in a socially polarized country. FULL POST

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Topics: Elections • Venezuela
December 11th, 2011
10:00 PM ET

Zakaria: The Hugo Chavez show

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

Last week saw the debut of a big new regional alliance. Thirty three countries came together to promote relations in the Americas. But, guess what - America itself (that is, the United States of America) was missing. And that was the point.

What in the World is going on?

To explain, let me tell you a bit more about the summit. It's called "CELAC" - a Spanish acronym for "the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States." It was held in Caracas, Venezuela, and the organizer was none other than that perennial America basher - President Hugo Chavez.

With great fanfare, Chavez proclaimed the summit to be the region's most important political event in more than a century - there would now be
complete "independence" from American interference.

Chavez made a point of hosting Cuba - a country he subsidizes, and one with which Washington has no formal relations. He also read out a letter of congratulations for creating the new regional bloc - the letter was from Hu Jintao, China's president. FULL POST

Chavez loses a friend in Gadhafi
Former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi welcomes Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez upon his arrival in Tripoli on October 22, 2010.
October 20th, 2011
01:45 PM ET

Chavez loses a friend in Gadhafi

By , GlobalPost

Former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who was confirmed killed on Thursday, didn't have a lot of friends.

He was never really welcomed in the circle of Arab leaders, who considered him more of an African than one of them. When Gadhafi turned south, he found few supporters among African leaders.

All that makes Gadhafi's friendship with Hugo Chavez even more particular. Venezuela's president has been a staunch ally of Gadhafi from the beginning.

Chavez has been battling cancer, flying to Cuba regularly for medical care. He returned on Thursday from Havana after another round of treatment, but didn't have anything immediately to say about his friend's death.

But as the rebellion in Libya began, Chavez was out front, condemning the uprising. FULL POST

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Topics: Libya • Venezuela
October 3rd, 2011
08:00 AM ET

All that's gold doesn't glitter

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

What do Hugo Chavez and Glenn Beck have in common? The socialist/populist president of Venezuela and the right-wing talk show host often have strange ideas - just not the same ones. But it turns out, they are both gold bugs.

Now, many people have been investing in gold. But Hugo Chavez wants to horde it literally, physically. The Venezuelan government controls the world's 15th largest stockpile of gold: about 365 tons. But, like most gold investors, it doesn't really have that gold. At least not physically. More than half of Venezuela's reserves are held overseas in London, New York and Zurich. If you ever visit the New York federal reserve, you can even see it in the underground vaults, neatly labelled as Venezuela's. FULL POST

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Topics: Economy • From Fareed • Global • GPS Show • Odd • Venezuela • What in the World?
July 26th, 2011
05:00 AM ET

Castro and Chavez: Their last hurrah

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

What got my attention recently was the video above of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro shooting the breeze in their track suits.

Fidel Castro, of course, led Cuba for 50 years, starting in 1959. His pal Hugo Chavez has been president of Venezuela since 1999.

Chavez has been in Cuba to undergo chemotherapy for his recently revealed cancer.

He could have summoned the very best doctors to his home. He was invited to go to a world class cancer facility in Brazil. But he chose Havana.

Cuba has a cheap and surprisingly good healthcare system, but Chavez's attachment to Cuba is more than just medical - it's political. He's making the statement that he supports the Cuban model.

Unfortunately, that model is crumbling. It is totally out of sync with the modern world. FULL POST

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Topics: Cuba • GPS Show • Latin America • Venezuela • What in the World?
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