Sunday, August 13

Sunday, August 13

HEMISPHERIC DIPLOMACY US vice president to focus on Venezuela in Latin America trip Today Vice President Mike Pence embarks on a six-day trip to Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Panama. The US administration is keen to rally friendly nations to contain and counter the spiralling crisis in Venezuela. On August 8, 17 nations including Colombia, Argentina

HEMISPHERIC DIPLOMACY

US vice president to focus on Venezuela in Latin America trip

Photo: Getty

Photo: Getty

Today Vice President Mike Pence embarks on a six-day trip to Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Panama.

The US administration is keen to rally friendly nations to contain and counter the spiralling crisis in Venezuela. On August 8, 17 nations including Colombia, Argentina and Chile condemned Venezuela’s “breakdown of democratic order” and “illegitimate” constituent assembly.

Coordinating regional states will be necessary to deal with Venezuela’s burgeoning refugee crisis, which has seen more than 140,000 flee into Colombia alone.

Mr Pence will also want to shore up support to counter the ALBA bloc, a loose coalition of leftist countries that recently expressed support for Maduro. The US has a vested interest in the crisis; the US imports almost 300 million barrels of oil from Venezuela annually, and a refugee crisis threatens to destabilise regional partners in staunching the hemispheric flow of drugs.

But given Trump’s unpopularity in the area and Pence’s diplomatic inexperience, it’s uncertain that the US will be able to take a leading role resolving the crisis.

MALAY MALAISE

Malaysia’s former PM holds town hall on 1MDB scandal

Photo: Getty

Photo: Getty

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad will host a town hall today to address a scandal that has engulfed the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

Critics, including Mr Mohamad, allege that in 2012 leading Malaysian officials, including Prime Minister Najib Razak embezzled more than $3 billion from 1MDB, which sparked mass protests calling for his resignation.

The scandal has unified Mahathir with former enemies in the Malaysian opposition, bringing an unprecedented coalition against Razak’s Barisan National Front, which has ruled the country since 1957.

Besides these domestic implications, the scandal has sparked investigations in Singapore, Switzerland, Hong Kong and the US, where the Justice Department has launched legal action to repossess American assets purchased with supposed dirty cash.

Despite Mohamad’s rallying, the prime minister has made it clear he won’t step down voluntarily. If Mr Razak is not ousted by his own party or at the ballot box, his effectiveness will be severely constrained by attacks on his legitimacy both at home and abroad, stymying his ambitious new modernization and development plan.

CLOSE CALL

Argentina holds primary elections

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

Argentinians will head to the polls today to determine the candidates for October’s legislative midterm elections.

Observers will keep a close eye on the province of Buenos Aires, where former President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner and Esteban Bullrich, who is backed by President Mauricio Macri’s governing coalition, face off.

The vote is seen as an important indicator of just how strong support for Argentina’s former president­—who is purportedly seeking to run for the highest office again in 2019—really is. A recent poll puts Ms Kirchner 4% ahead of Bullrich, although that figure is still well within the margin of error.

Investors will be hoping that Kirchner’s bid for power won’t come to fruition; since she declared her candidacy in late June, the Argentinian peso fell by over 9%. Kirchner and her allies will seek to reverse Macri’s efforts to liberalise the country’s markets and balance the budget.

While it’s reasonable to expect Ms Kirchner to win tomorrow’s primary elections, she’s still a way’s away from getting back into the senate, let alone the highest office.

 

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