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Friday, July 29, 2016

FT LatAm Viva For 29 July, 2016

FINANCIAL TIMES - Latam Viva: Your weekly briefing from the region
Unhappy anniversary
By Andres Schipani 
July 29, 2016
Another week in Venezuela: socialists celebrated the birthday of the late Hugo Chávez with a chunky cake amid ravaging food shortages; President Nicolás Maduro blamed capitalism and Pokémon Go for a culture of death and violence; and a resettled former Guantanamo prisoner who went missing showed up.
Above all, it is a country where the political deadlock continues. Six months ago, following victory amid discontent, Venezuela's opposition took over the national assembly for the first time since Chávez launched his socialist revolution in 1999. Some of its leaders vowed to remove the unpopular Mr Maduro from power within the first half of 2016. 
That did not happen and life in Venezuela has worsened with spiralling food riots. The crisis is even hitting Cuba, Mr Maduro's closest ally. In such a tense scenario, the opposition believes the only resolution will be by ousting the president. But it continues to face hurdles as it presses for progress on a referendum.
For Henri Falcón, a centrist state governor and former member of the socialist party who broke with Chávez, and is sometimes mentioned as a compromise transitional successor to Mr Maduro: "There is the risk of people getting tired, and the little social explosions we see every day could blow up. Patience has a limit." 
Venezuelans have already validated a petition to recall the president and call fresh elections. The question now is: will they succeed in removing him in the second half of 2016? Nobody knows, as the ruling socialist party is seeking to ban the opposition coalition, alleging the "greatest electoral fraud" in history.
The election authority, whose officials are influenced by the government, was due to announce whether the opposition had successfully gathered the 400,000 signatures required to activate the vote. It has pushed that announcement back till next week, while the government packed the streets with security forces to undermine opposition rallies.
An opposition supporter carrying a sign that reads "We starve. Total dictatorship" shouts at Venezuelan National Guards during clashes at a rally to demand a referendum to remove President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, May 18, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia RawlinsAn opposition supporter carrying a sign that reads "We starve. Total dictatorship" shouts at Venezuelan National Guards during clashes at a rally to demand a referendum to remove President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, May 18, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
As the armed forces have grown more powerful, some of the protesters who dared to demonstrate were fenced in by police and the national guard. They complained that Venezuela is increasingly "militarised", and some said the government should send soldiers to Brazil to tackle a crime wave ahead of the start of the Olympic Games.
After the mother-in-law of Bernie Ecclestone was reported kidnapped in São Paulo, a gang of transvestites attempted to rob an Australian telly crew in Rio de Janeiro. Meanwhile, former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is trying to shield himself - not from Pokémon or transvestite muggers, but from allegedly abusive local judges.
Quote of the week
“Under current conditions, [Cuban] gross domestic product will dip into negative territory this year and decline 2.9 per cent in 2017. If relations with Venezuela fall apart completely, GDP could decline 10 per cent” - Pavel Vidal, a former Cuban central bank employee.
Other views
The week in review
Venezuela’s armed forces tighten grip as food crisis grow
 
Military takes charge of food production, distribution and ports
 
 
Lula appeals to UN over Petrobras judge
 
Human rights case from Brazil’s former president looks to put prosecutors’ methods on trial
 
 
Ecclestone’s mother-in-law ‘kidnapped in Brazil’
 
Criminals said to demand record $37m ransom shortly before Rio Olympics open
 
 
Venezuela’s economic woes send a chill over closest ally Cuba
 
Warnings of rationing revive memories of post-Soviet austerity in Havana
 
 
Crunch time for attempt to oust Maduro
 
Venezuelan presidency faces push for a recall referendum
 
 
Challenges hound organisers of Rio Olympic Games
 
Hurdles range from huge logistics issues to Olympic-size rodents on a golf course