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Balance of Power: Venezuela Heads for Point of No Return

Venezuela is barreling toward a point of no return.

Despite food shortages and increasingly violent protests, President Nicolas Maduro is closing in on a vote that would allow him to rewrite the constitution and effectively end 59 years of modern democracy.

Barring a last-minute compromise, voters on Sunday will select 545 delegates -- including students, pensioners and workers -- for a constitutional convention. The opposition has boycotted the proceedings, essentially guaranteeing Maduro control.

The so-called constituyente has no set term and supersedes the national assembly, which has been a bulwark against Maduro’s autocratic government.

With the country roiled by a strike and state media bombarding voters with propaganda, the U.S. sanctioned 13 officials yesterday, including the interior minister, and threatened more punitive measures.

Some analysts contend that the constituyente is a negotiating tactic, while others say Maduro will use the body to delay indefinitely elections he can’t win. That raises the specter of a Cuba-style regime ruling OPEC’s sixth-largest crude producer at the very heart of the Americas.

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Opposition demonstrators clash with police in Caracas, on July 26, 2017. 

Global Headlines

‘Skinny’ Obamacare repeal takes shape | Senate Republicans who have promised to demolish Obamacare are now taking a bare-bones approach. With only a slim majority, Republicans say this week’s many votes may ultimately only yield legislation ending the requirement that all Americans have insurance or pay a penalty, along with a few other provisions. The goal is to get a bill through tonight or early tomorrow and then negotiate a final agreement with the House, which passed a broader overhaul in May.

Tillerson staying put | President Donald Trump’s secretary of state sought to quell speculation about his future amid reports he’s frustrated with the White House over vacancies in his department. In terse remarks to reporters, Rex Tillerson said he plans to remain the U.S.’s top diplomat “as long as the president lets me” and described his relationship with Trump as “good.”

A decade of Italian anger since Zidane headbutt | Years of resentment burst into the open yesterday when France said it might nationalize a Saint-Nazaire shipyard if its would-be Italian buyer doesn’t accept conditions. President Emmanuel Macron may have reinvigorated Europe, but, as Alessandra Migliaccio writes, France’s ties with Italy are going from bad to worse, and Italians are convinced their richer neighbor will never give them the respect they deserve, on or off the field.

French midfielder Zinedine Zidane gestures after head-butting Italian defender Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup final in Germany.
Photographer: JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

The drumbeat of sanctions | Looks like Trump will have to decide soon whether to veto legislation that would curb his power to lift sanctions on Russia, a move that in all likelihood would prompt the Republican-led Congress to override him. A key senator announced a deal to vote on House-passed legislation that has drawn criticism from Europe and vows of retaliation from the Kremlin. The last time legislators wrote sanctions on Russia into law, it took almost 40 years for them to be lifted.

New dawn in Europe | With Greece returning to the bond market, Macron seeking deeper integration and Europhobic parties suffering setbacks, Europe has put its major crises in the rearview mirror, Viktoria Dendrinou writes. “Political risk has receded,” said Manolis Galenianos, a professor at the Royal Holloway, University of London. “This is not a facade.” 

Modi strengthens his grip | Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a new ally after a night of high drama in one of India's biggest states. After Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar fell out out with his coalition and quit, he later switched allegiance to Modi’s party and rescinded his resignation. Bringing Kumar into the fold boosts Modi’s hold on key states and lowers the chance the Bihar chief will stand against him in 2019.

And finally... Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s views on diversity are clear -- he began his 2015 campaign at a pride parade and this year boosted transgender rights. But as Canada prepares for Nafta trade talks, he’s regularly said it’s not his job to lecture Trump -- even when, as he told Rolling Stone magazine, they “disagree on a whole bunch.” Not so for Canada’s military, though, which is among more than a dozen nations to allow transgender troops. It responded to Trump’s announcement of a ban on transgender forces with a tweet of its own.


— With assistance by Ben Sills, Kathleen Hunter, and Rosalind Mathieson

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