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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.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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"There needs to be a dramatic and deep reduction in the amount of debt on the poorest countries. That's clear." As the world's poorest nations struggle to recover from a devastating pandemic, World Bank President David Malpass argues that freeing them of much of their debt will be key. His conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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