This Latino Week
Caracas is braced for what has been termed the ‘mother of all protests’, with opposition groups planning mass demonstrations this week. The plans take place around a national holiday for Venezuela, which marks the anniversary of Venezuela’s independence struggle in 1810. The occasion will be met with strong counter-protests, with the Venezuelan government calling on supporters to face down any protests – creating a divisive situation that is likely to result in fighting.
The showdown has been met with international attention, with a coalition of Latin American countries calling on Maduro’s government to ensure the safety of protestors. They also rejected general brutality in recent weeks, which has led to the deaths of at least six Venezuelans in recent weeks.
The demonstrations will take place in the context of what is fast becoming a humanitarian crisis. Venezuela lacks basic goods such as food and medicines, and the problems are crossing the border to Brazil, with deprived Venezuelans attempting to find resources outside of their country borders. With issues still surrounding hyperinflation, it is unclear how the situation will be solved in the recent future.
Paraguayan President backs down in re-election bid
Horacio Cartés has publicly stated that he will not attempt to run for President once his current term has ended, following a wave of violent protests. The current President, who has been in power since 2013, was seeking to amend rules in Paraguay that prevented candidates from re-running for election.
The legislation has been in place since 1991, after the removal of dictator Alfredo Stroessner. The rules are designed to prevent any leader from ruling for life, after the 35-year rule of Stroessner. Cartés’ supporters maintain that the rules are outdated in the face of democratic changes and improvements, and that the rules prevent voters from electing their favoured candidate. If Cartés was eligible to stand in the next election, it is presumed that he would win by a large margin.
Cartés, who represents the Colorado Party – the party linked with Stroessner – ran on a populist platform in 2013, following the displacement of Liberal-linked candidate Fernando Lugo. He has a popular support base, but even many of his supporters do not wish for him to change the rules in order to run again. They were joined by opposition forces, who have an obvious incentive to prevent a popular President from running for a longer term. The protests have often been violent, and threatened to overshadow the government. Cartés claimed to have been inspired by Pope Francis’ recent call for peace and dialogue, and it is hoped his announcement will stop further fighting.
Moreno sets out agenda
Newly-announced Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno has used this week to try and unite a polarized country, after his narrow victory over Conservative candidate Guillermo Lasso. Moreno won a heavily contested vote after exit polls initially favoured Lasso, and his rival has requested a recount after refusing to concede.
Moreno mainly took the opportunity to differentiate himself from his predecessor Rafael Correa. Moreno has a reputation as being more pragmatic and level-headed than Correa, and pledged to crack down on corruption and remove media restrictions. In the past, Ecuador has had a reputation for being one of the more corrupt and restrictive nations in Latin America, and many are relieved at Moreno’s suggestion that this may be improved.
In turn, Correa has pledged to not interfere in Ecuadorian politics in the future, wishing his successor well and pledging to move to his wife’s native Belgium to ensure he cannot influence day-to-day politics.
Canada, U.S. and Mexico announce World Cup bid
The three North American giants announced their bid to host the newly expanded 2026 World Cup this week, claiming that their bid would be the most sensible choice due to the existing infrastructure to accommodate the increased number of games. U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) chief Sunil Gulati formally announced the plans, claiming that the joint bid was a sign of unity among the three nations.
Currently, the bid is the frontrunner to win, and it is difficult to see any rival bids that could compete. Both the U.S. (1994) and Mexico (1970, 1986) have a proud record of hosting the World Cup, and the commercial opportunities involved with increased exposure in the United States cannot be ignored. As well as this, North America has not received a World Cup since 1994 – in the meantime Europe, South America, Africa, the Far East and the Middle East have all hosted or will host the tournament.
However, there are questions about the details of the bid. As it stands, the U.S. would host 60 of the 80 games, with Mexico and Canada receiving 10 each. Furthermore, Mexico and Canada would not receive a single game from the quarter-finals onwards, leading to critics accusing the U.S. of making a ‘united’ bid that does not fully include the other 2 hosts. Indeed, the current context of the U.S. under Trump makes the joint nature of the bid look like more of an attempt to present the U.S. as an inclusive nation for the global football community; even though the initial planning for the bid preceded the 2016 Presidential election.