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Balance of Power: Is Maduro Marching Down Path to Dictatorship?

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.

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Opposition activists clash with riot police in Caracas.

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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.

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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.

Donald Trump during a visit to the Menie estate in Aberdeenshire in 2011. 
Photographer: Danny Lawson - PA Images/PA Images

— With assistance by Ben Sills, Rosalind Mathieson, Gregory White, Kathleen Hunter, and Matthew Campbell

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