Photos: Bloomberg, Getty; photo illustration: Tom Hall/Bloomberg
Balance of Power: Is Maduro Marching Down Path to Dictatorship?By and
It only took a day for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to make his authoritarian intentions clear.
By hustling away two of the country’s most high-profile opposition leaders in the dead of night, the president showed he’ll tolerate no dissent as he pushes aside democratic checks on his power.
After a disputed vote on Sunday, Maduro will convene a new constitutional assembly this week, bypassing the elected congress and setting himself up for a head-on collision with his South American neighbors and the U.S., the biggest buyer of Venezuelan oil. President Donald Trump called on Maduro to immediately release his opponents.
The U.S. has already imposed sanctions on several individuals, including officials at the state-oil company, driving off investors and squeezing Maduro’s main source of hard currency. But months of violent protests and international pressure have so far failed to deter him. And the risk of a broader civil conflict is rising as militant groups arm themselves.
The latest crackdown will only fuel concerns that Venezuela is sliding rapidly toward dictatorship, or worse.
Trump's fingerprints on Russia release | Trump “weighed in, as any father would,” on his son’s statement about a June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer, the White House said, contradicting comments by the president’s own attorney. Despite the deepening entanglement between Trump World and Russia, the House Judiciary Committee has other concerns. It’s renewing scrutiny of Hillary Clinton’s alleged ties to foreign governments, to the outrage of Democrats.
A Malaysian power play | Opposition groups are sprouting up in the Borneo state of Sabah, which holds one of the keys to power. With a national election looming and growing dissatisfaction over their share of oil revenue, challengers want to end the ruling party’s six-decade hold. But they’ll first need to find common ground, and even then might end up competing for the same seats. Prime Minister Najib Razak’s grip on the state may yet survive.
Is Kim Jong Un unstoppable? | It may already be too late for sanctions to halt North Korea. That’s the view of analysts who have followed its quest for an intercontinental ballistic missile. With the start-up costs behind him and a relatively strong economy, Kim may be immune to more pressure from sanctions. That leaves Trump with few options: accept the reality of a new nuclear power or contemplate a strike that would have devastating consequences for the peninsula.
Defusing the Chinese debt bomb | While officials have been busily turning the screws on private companies that roamed the world in recent years in an unprecedented $343 billion cross-border takeover spree, the $17 trillion in debt still sitting on corporate balance sheets is raising the risk of a wrenching downturn. As Kevin Hamlin reports, at some point China may no longer be able to both roll over existing debt and fund new projects, the effect of which would send ripples through the global economy.
Putin’s problem with Assad | Russia’s campaign to save Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may have worked too well. Kremlin influence over its protege has waned as he grows confident about his survival, so Russia is pulling back a little, refusing air support for an assault on the Syrian rebels’ last bastion. As a bonus, it might also help bring the U.S. round to Russia’s peace plan for Syria.
Iran's troubled deal | As the Trump administration ramps up the pressure on Iran and its nuclear agreement, the Islamic Republic has few good ways to respond. Any Iranian escalation risks making it look like the aggressor -- and that would be bad news for European signatories seeking to rally support for the nuclear accord. Iran's economy may pay the price.
And finally... Trump hasn't said much about British politics since taking office. But one issue he is apparently concerned about is the prospect of another vote on Scottish independence - and its impact on the world of golf. “They’d no longer have the British Open,” the president told the Wall Street Journal, according to a transcript of the interview released by Politico. Still, the president, who developed a course outside Aberdeen, has a solution for the tournament which traditionally visits different courses around the British Isles. “Scotland. Keep it in Scotland,” he said.
— With assistance by Ben Sills, Rosalind Mathieson, Gregory White, Kathleen Hunter, and Matthew Campbell