What We're Watching: A fracas in Caracas

What We're Watching: A fracas in Caracas

A fracas in Caracas – Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido was voted out as speaker of the country's Congress over the weekend after soldiers stopped him from entering the building. (He tried to jump a fence, but was stopped by soldiers with riot shields.) That allowed an ally of strongman Nicolas Maduro's government to claim the post instead. Guaido, whom the US and several other countries have recognized as Venezuela's legitimate leader, won a second vote by lawmakers who gathered at the offices of an opposition newspaper, and he's contesting what some people are calling a "parliamentary coup." Guaido called the fracas "another blunder" by the regime and pushed through the military cordon on Tuesday onto the floor of Congress, where he and his supporters chanted "here, the people rule!" Still, the duelling claims to the speakership are yet another blow to his sputtering anti-Maduro insurgency.


John Bolton – On Monday, President Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton issued a statement that "if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify" in the Senate impeachment trial. That's a potentially big deal, because Bolton, formerly a key player in Trump's foreign policy team, is widely respected among Republicans, and many Democrats believe his testimony would prove deeply embarrassing, and perhaps politically damaging, for the president. Bolton will testify only if 51 senators—and, therefore, at least four Republicans—vote to make it happen. We'll be watching to see if Bolton is called to testify, what the White House might do to try to stop him, how Bolton's testimony is shared with the public, and exactly what he has to say.

Spain has a (fragile) government – After nearly a year of caretaker government, Spain's socialist leader Pedro Sanchez secured a (very) narrow parliamentary majority on Monday, allowing him to form the first coalition government in modern Spain's history. Sanchez's Socialist party, which finished first in two inconclusive elections in 2019, was finally able to form a government thanks to the backing of smaller regional parties, including a grouping of Catalan separatists. With his coalition partner, the left-wing Unidas Podemos party, Sanchez will push for tax increases for high-income earners and other new policies. But in the highly fractious parliament, the government will need to negotiate with other parties to pass legislation – including those disgruntled separatist lawmakers who want a binding independence referendum in Catalonia. Will Spain's protracted political stalemate come to an end, or will it be deadlock as usual?

What We're Ignoring

The Pentagon's "mistake" – After 17 years of gruelling combat and painstaking negotiations, the US presence in Iraq appeared to be coming to an end. So said a message on US Army letterhead delivered to Iraqi military officials on Monday before making its way to the American media. "We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure," it read, responding to the recent Iraqi parliament vote ordering the expulsion of US forces from its country. But the memo's veracity was undercut in less than an hour when the Pentagon said that release of the letter – a draft – was a "mistake." Soon after, another Pentagon official said it was actually fake, calling it "active disinformation." We're ignoring this confusion because we're pretty sure that if the US decides to pull out of Iraq, we'll hear about it first from President Trump on Twitter.

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Political division, disinformation and, frankly, stupidity are costing lives. It is not authoritarian to mandate vaccines in America. In fact, there is historical precedent. Making vaccine uptake a requirement will save tens of thousands of lives and maybe many more than that. There really aren't two sides to this argument, there is just the science.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Hope you're having a good week. I wanted to kick it off by talking about vaccines. We all know the recent spike in cases and even hospitalizations that we have experienced in this country over the past couple of weeks. It looks like that's going to continue. It is overwhelmingly because of Delta variant. The hospitalizations and deaths are overwhelmingly because too many people are un-vaccinated.

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Iraqi PM's face-to-face with Biden: Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq's prime minister, met with President Biden at the White House Monday to discuss the future of US troops in Iraq. The US still has about 2,500 troops stationed in Iraq to engage in "counterterrorism" operations and train Iraqi forces. In an interview published this week, al-Kadhimi called for the withdrawal of all US combat troops, because, he said, Iraqi forces have proven capable of fighting ISIS militants on their own. (Just last week, some 30 Iraqis were killed when ISIS militants attacked a busy Baghdad market.) Al-Kadhimi still wants non-combat US troops to stay on in a training capacity. He became PM in 2020 as a consensus candidate after nationwide protests over corruption and joblessness forced the resignation of the unpopular previous government. At least 500 protesters were killed during a crackdown by Iraqi security forces, fueling demands for fresh elections, which are set to take place this October. The green PM has a tough job: he has to juggle relations with the Biden administration, which just pledged $155 million in aid to Iraq, and ties with Tehran, an influential player in Iraqi politics. (Iraq relies on Iran for energy imports, and Iran-backed militias inside Iraq are a force to be reckoned with.) Local sentiment has soured on the US presence as Iraqis resent being caught in the middle of US-Iran fights inside Iraqi territory.

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7,100: As a third COVID wave ravages Myanmar, the death toll has now risen above 7,100, a gross undercount because that total includes only those who died in hospitals. Myanmar, which has one of the weakest healthcare systems in Asia, is also dealing with a vaccine hesitancy problem: people are rejecting shots because they see vaccination as validation of the military, which overthrew the democratically elected government earlier this year.

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Tunisia, the only country that emerged a democracy from the Arab Spring, is now in the middle of its worst political crisis since it got rid of former autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali over a decade ago.

On Sunday, the 64th anniversary of the country's independence from France, President Kais Saied responded to widespread protests over the ailing economy and COVID by firing embattled Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspending parliament for 30 days. Troops have surrounded the legislature, where rival crowds faced off on Monday, with one side chanting in support of the move and the other denouncing it as a coup.

How did we get here, do we even know who's really in charge, and what might come next?

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This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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"We've been dealing with pandemics from the earliest recorded history. Thucydides writes about a pandemic in the history of the Peloponnesian War. So the last thing 2020 was, was unprecedented," Stanford historian Niall Ferguson told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World. Ferguson, whose new book, "Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe," believes that the world should have been better prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic based on the numerous health crises of the 20th century, from the 1918 Spanish flu to influenza and HIV/AIDS. He provides perspective on how the COVID crisis stacks up compared to other pandemics throughout history.

Watch the episode: Predictable disaster and the surprising history of shocks

COVID-19 was a global catastrophe that blindsided the world's wealthiest nations, and it's far from over. But as disasters go, it was hardly unprecedented. Humanity has a long history of failing to prepare for the worst, from volcanic eruptions to earthquakes to famines to shipwrecks to airplane crashes to financial depressions. But how do we get better at preventing such calamities from happening, and how many seemingly unavoidable "natural" disasters are actually caused by humans? On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer talks about all that and more with Stanford historian Niall Ferguson, who is just out with the perfect book for the topic, "Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe." Plus, a look at how one young Ugandan activist was literally cropped out of the global climate fight.

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GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

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GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

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Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal