As Crisis in Venezuela Deepens, Maduro’s Iron Fist Tightens

Venezuelan protester, symbolically wearing chains. Image: Carlos Díaz/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 4 March, 2015.

Since the death of Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s political leadership has moved from charisma to authoritarianism. Support for Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution has fallen from 65% when the populist leader died to 22% today.

The revolution’s erstwhile steward is Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s current president and Chávez’s hand-picked successor. Maduro lacks his mentor’s extraordinary charm and intelligence – and to compensate, he is resorting to the iron fist.

Who is Nicolas Maduro?

As a teenager, Maduro aspired to have his own rock band, and was a fan of Led Zeppelin. In an interview with the Guardian, he referred to himself as a “a little bohemian”. Although he never finished high school, Maduro was able to build a successful political career. A robust man of 6’4″, he spent the 1980s working as a bus driver in the capital’s public transport system, where he founded and led an informal trade union. » More

A Vulnerable Peace: What’s at Stake in the Upcoming Burundian Elections

Flag of the National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD); a political party and former rebel group in Burundi. Image: MrPenguin20/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 20 February, 2015.

Starting in May, Burundians are scheduled to go to the polls for the third time since the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement and subsequent cease-fire agreements ended the Burundian civil war in 2003. These are important elections with significant consequences for the consolidation of peace and economic recovery in the country, as well as for democracy in the wider Great Lakes region.

The ruling party, the CNDD-FDD, is a former rebel movement that belatedly signed a cease-fire agreement in 2003 and then went on to win the first post-war democratic elections in 2005, and the second ones in 2010. Complex power-sharing provisions were agreed upon during the Arusha peace negotiations and enshrined in the Burundian Constitution, which intended to ensure a certain degree of inclusivity in governance. While the civil war was fought partly over the issue of ethnic exclusion, the Burundian Constitution requires that executive and legislative organs are multiethnic. » More

Why Are European Leaders So Afraid of Greece’s Syriza Party?

Alexis Tzirpas. Thierry Ehrmann/flickr

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 9 January, 2015.

The calling of a snap election in Greece for January 25 has been met with great concern in political circles, prompted direct interventions by top European officials and alarmed markets and credit rating agencies.

This is all because Syriza, the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left, is being tipped to win the election. It is currently the largest opposition party in the Greek parliament and consistently leads the polls as the vote approaches.

According to the latest polls Syriza’s vote share could stretch anywhere between 36% to 40%, with the centre-right New Democracy trailing by at least three percentage points. Anything above 36% gives Syriza not only an electoral victory but an outright governing majority in the Greek parliament because the winning party is automatically handed a 50-seat bonus in the 300-seat parliament.

Opponents claim that Syriza would renege on Greece’s international obligations if it came to power and that efforts to reform the country would be halted. Political instability would ensue and the eurozone would again be plunged into crisis. Talk of Greece leaving the euro has been particularly prominent of late. » More

Comments Off

Chinese Special Operations Forces: Not Like “Back at Bragg”

110712-N-TT977-077

Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, Image: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Flickr.

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 1 January 2015.

The PLA’s special forces: secrets revealed,” promised Want China Times, a Taiwan-based English-language website. The article describes China’s “10 major special operations forces, each with its own unique characteristics and code names” and was based on a translation of an earlier blog posting on the PLA Daily website with photos and descriptions of several People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and People’s Armed Police (PAP) special operations units. » More

Comments Off

China Dreamin’

The three Mandarins, icons of Confucianism. Image: Internet Archve Books Images/Flickr

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 8 December, 2014.

Every Chinese leader since Mao has attempted to separate themselves from their predecessor by articulating a new overarching praxis. For Xi Jingping this grand idea is the ‘China Dream’ – that is, a call for ‘national rejuvenation’ which improves people’s livelihoods, strengthens the military, and restores China’s status as a great power. The ‘dream’ has come with an official propaganda blitz – everything from TV shows and educational campaigns, to Party School courses and academic funding streams to research the ‘dream’. » More

Comments Off
Page 1 of 71