The CSS Blog Network

The Venezuelan Crisis and Fragmented Multilateralism in the Americas

Image courtesy of Nicole Resseguie-Snyder/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 23 August 2017.

In 2013, Venezuela was a defective democracy experiencing serious breaches of civil and political rights, but with more or less functioning electoral institutions, and accountability between the branches of the state. Today, the country is an authoritarian regime. President Nicolás Maduro’s government crossed into that territory on March 29 this year, when the Supreme Court, following instructions from the executive, stripped the country’s National Assembly of its competences, triggering the wave of demonstrations that continues today (42 a day on average) and that has cost the life of 126 Venezuelans. Another definitive step occurred on July 16, with the election, through massive electoral fraud, of a Constituent Assembly with total powers over the National Assembly and aimed at rewriting the national constitution.

There are two main victims of the Venezuelan crisis. The first are the Venezuelan people, who have not only witnessed a dramatic deterioration of their living conditions, but have also lost the ability to live together in harmony, for an undetermined amount of time. The second victim, on which I focus here, is multilateralism—the ability of states to bring collective solutions to conflicts and crises through institutions and other forms of cooperation.

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Lebanon on the Brink

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Courtesy Nicolas Raymond/flickr

This article was originally published by the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) on 30 August 2016.

Summary

Gravely affected by the Syrian crisis, Lebanon has managed to remain relatively stable against all odds – despite the influx of some 1.5 million Syrian refugees and internal political crisis involving actors who support opposing Syrian factions. Lebanon’s resilience can be explained by the high opportunity cost of state breakdown for domestic, regional and international political actors. Moreover, international economic assistance, diaspora remittances and informal networks established by refugees help to prevent outright economic breakdown. Yet, stability remains extremely precarious. Important tipping points include (1) the IS strategy of spreading the conflict to Lebanon, and the consequent disintegration of the army along sectarian lines, (2) democratic decline and popular dissatisfaction, (3) Hizbullah’s domestic ambitions and Israeli fears over the group’s growing military power and (4) the potential for frustration between refugees and host communities turning into recurrent violence. However, (5) the slow economic decline and the worsening sanitary conditions stand out as the greatest challenges.

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Violence Wracks Ethiopia  – But Don’t Expect Anything to Change

Courtesy of US Navy/ Wikimedia Creative Commons

This article was originally published by War is Boring on 11 August 2016.

Violent protests have shaken Ethiopia in the last month. More than 50 people have died, most of them shot dead by security forces. In contrast to an earlier wave of demonstrations that claimed the lives of more than 400 protestors and security agents early this year, this time the protests weren’t limited to the Oromo federal state, but instead originated in the Amhara region.

The spread of the protests — and the accompanying violence — points to increasing dissatisfaction with the government among large segments of the population. Together, the Oromo and Amhara people, whose presence largely correlates with the eponymous federal states, account for more than 60 percent of Ethiopia’s population.

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Venezuela’s Toxic Combination: Too Many Guns, Too Little Food

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Chavez, courtesy of mwausk/flickr (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by The International Crisis Group on 6 June 2016.

Venezuela is a country of almost 900,000 square kilometres with over 30 million inhabitants. But a few, run-down city blocks in the west of the capital, Caracas, carry a significance far beyond their size and population. Known as “el centro”, this part of Libertador municipality holds the presidential Miraflores palace, many ministry buildings, the Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, or TSJ) and the headquarters of the electoral authority (Consejo Nacional Electoral, or CNE). In the past few days “el centro” has been the scene of a variety of events that speak volumes about the depth of the combined political, economic, social and humanitarian conflict that seems finally to have caught the attention of the wider world. And about the difficulty of resolving it through dialogue.

Crisis Group has for years warned that authoritarian governance, economic mismanagement, violent crime and lawlessness in Venezuela would eventually prove a toxic combination. The crisis spiralled out of control following the untimely death from cancer of the country’s charismatic leader Hugo Chávez in 2013 and the near simultaneous plunge in the price of oil, on which the economy is almost wholly dependent. Acute shortages of food, triple-digit inflation, one of the world’s highest homicide rates and the collapse of public services, including health care, are signs of deeper dysfunction. This is a country on the verge of implosion.

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The AU’s Less Coercive Diplomacy in Burundi

East African soldiers from Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Sudan practice counter-IED movement

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 16 February 2016.

Burundi’s political crisis continues, but it has entered a new phase with the conclusion of the 26th African Union summit on January 31st in Addis Ababa. In a December 2015 Global Observatory article, I analyzed the AU’s novel use of coercive diplomacy in Burundi. This approach came under scrutiny at the January summit, to the point that many consider it a failure. The truth is more complicated.

Before the AU summit, the last decision on Burundi taken by the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) was set out in its communiqué of December 17th last year. Among other things, this seven-page document authorized the deployment of a 5,000-strong African Protection and Prevention Mission in Burundi (MAPROBU). It gave President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government 96-hours to consent to MAPROBU’s deployment, called for the relaunch of the inter-Burundi dialogue between the government and opposition, and for the complete deployment of the 100 human rights and military observers that the AU had authorized in May 2015. The principal goals of the PSC in taking this decision had been to facilitate a political settlement to Burundi’s ongoing crisis and reduce the threat of armed conflict and violence against civilians.

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