Venezuela: Stronger Than They Look, Weaker Than You Think

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó's dramatic bid to unseat President Nicolás Maduro earlier this week failed. But as we head into the weekend, neither man is as strong as his supporters hope, nor as weak as his opponents think.

Here are the big lessons from this week.


Maduro survived the biggest single challenge to his rule since he took power six years ago. Defections from the military were minimal, and no high-level figures bolted on him. Furthermore, while repression by the military was firm, he avoided turning the day into a bloodbath that could have galvanized more forceful internal or external pressure.

And yet he still has several challenges to deal with. First, a rogue faction within his domestic security services appeared to have freed a major opposition figure, suggesting that loyalty to him is more fragile than it seems. And the fact that it took him 12 hours to appear on TV to assert control also wasn't a great sign. Second, Washington's claims that top members of the military were in talks with the US about ousting Maduro will – even if unverified – sow discord and suspicion within Maduro's inner circle. And third, Venezuela is still suffering the worst peacetime economic collapse of any country in living memory. Maduro (still) doesn't seem to have a plan in sight to fix that.

Guaidó, for his part, failed in his biggest bid yet to unseat Maduro. Whether because of poor planning, faulty intelligence, or a communications blunder, he was simply unable to muster a critical mass of anti-Maduro support, either on the streets or in the higher ranks of the military.

But on the plus side, he is still a free man. Not only that: he is a free man who still enjoys credibility not only on the streets but with foreign governments, more than 50 of which still recognize him as the rightful president of Venezuela.

That's not nothing. But the challenge, after Tuesday's stumble, is that he's increasingly hard pressed to keep both the optics and the momentum moving in his favor.

Meanwhile, in Finland: The top diplomats from Russia, which backs Maduro, and the United States, which backs Guaidó, may have a tete-a-tete Monday on the sidelines of a meeting of Arctic powers. You can bet Venezuela will top their agenda: Secretary of State Pompeo claims Russian pressure is the only thing that kept Maduro from fleeing to Havana this week, while Foreign Minister Lavrov has warned the US to stop meddling in Venezuela. Sparks may fly!

This month, a bipartisan group of legislators in Washington state presented new legislation that could soon become the most comprehensive privacy law in the country. The centerpiece of this legislation, the Washington Privacy Act as substituted, goes further than the landmark bill California recently enacted and builds on the law Europeans have enjoyed for the past year and a half.

As Microsoft President Brad Smith shared in his blog post about our priorities for the state of Washington's current legislative session, we believe it is important to enact strong data privacy protections to demonstrate our state's leadership on what we believe will be one of the defining issues of our generation. People will only trust technology if they know their data is private and under their control, and new laws like these will help provide that assurance.

Read more here.

Let's be clear— the Middle East peace plan that the US unveiled today is by no means fair. In fact, it is markedly more pro-Israel than any that have come before it.

But the Trump administration was never aiming for a "fair" deal. Instead, it was pursuing a deal that can feasibly be implemented. In other words, it's a deal shaped by a keen understanding of the new power balances within the region and globally.

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Betty Liu, Executive Vice Chairman for NYSE Group, explains:

Do election years have an impact on the markets?

So, the short answer is it depends. There's lots of factors that affect the markets, right. But there are some trends. So, the S&P has had its best performance in the year before elections and the second-best performance on election year. Now since 1928, we've had 23 election years and the S&P has had negative returns only four times in that duration.

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For months now, the US has been lobbying countries around the world to ban the Chinese tech giant Huawei from building the 5G data networks that are going to power everything from your cell phone, to power grids, to self-driving cars. US security hawks say allowing a Chinese company to supply such essential infrastructure could allow the Chinese government to steal sensitive data or even sabotage networks. On the other hand, rejecting Huawei could make 5G more expensive. It also means angering the world's second-largest economy.

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The end of the interim in Bolivia? – Mere months after taking over as Bolivia's interim president, Jeanine Áñez has decided that "interim" isn't quite permanent enough, and she now wants to run for president in elections set for May 3. Áñez is an outspoken conservative who took over in October when mass protests over election fraud prompted the military to oust the long-serving left-populist Evo Morales. She says she is just trying to unify a fractious conservative ticket that can beat the candidate backed by Morales' party. (Morales himself is barred from running.) Her supporters say she has the right to run just like anyone else. But critics say that after promising that she would serve only as a caretaker president, Áñez's decision taints the legitimacy of an election meant to be a clean slate reset after the unrest last fall. We are watching closely to see if her move sparks fresh unrest in an already deeply polarized country.

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