11 March 2018   Leave a comment

It is now official.  China’s National People’s Congress eliminated term limits from its constitution giving current President Xi Jinping the right to rule indefinitely.  The change is yet another setback for those of us who hoped that China would slowly establish a robust democracy.  China’s censors have been working overtime to suppress any criticism of the change. The Malaysian newspaper, the New Straits Times describes the change as “further evidence of the world’s slide towards more nationalist, authoritarian regimes”.  The censorship extends to virtually every space on the internet and includes blocking works by George Orwell and references to Winnie the Pooh who some Chinese believe Mr. Xi resembles.

President Xi Jinping

 

Enrique Krause has written a long essay on the situation in Venezuela for the New York Review of Books.  Krause makes the argument that it is poor governance, not the collapse in global oil prices, that is responsible for the misery in Venezuela.  His characterization of the lives of ordinary Venezuelans is stark:

“This is a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions. By May 2017, Venezuela’s minimum monthly wage wasn’t enough to meet even 12 percent of a single person’s basic food needs.2 A survey of 6,500 households by three prestigious universities showed that 74 percent of the population had lost on average nineteen pounds in 2016. Infant mortality in hospitals has risen by 100 percent. Diseases nearly eradicated in many countries, like malaria and diphtheria, have flourished; illnesses largely new to the area, like Chikungunya, Zika, and dengue, have spread. Caracas is now the most dangerous city on the planet. All this is happening in a country that has one of the largest oil reserves in the world.”

The villain in this story is Nicolás Maduro who took power after Hugo Chavez died in 2013.  Maduro has crushed the opposition despite heroic and massive protests against his rule.  Elections are scheduled for May, but the main opposition parties have vowed to boycott the vote.

 

A third state plagued by the rise of authoritarianism is Egypt.  President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi is running for re-election and there is little evidence that there is an organized opposition willing to contest the election.  The Washington Post describes the state of Egyptian politics:

“Over the past year, Sissi has intensified an assault on basic freedoms. Hundreds of websites deemed critical of his regime have been blocked. Extrajudicial killings are rising, human rights groups say. Countless opponents have been jailed, “forcibly disappeared” or sidelined in other ways, targeted often by security forces in the name of combating terrorism, especially a virulent Islamic State affiliate in the northern Sinai Peninsula.”

As in China, Egyptian authorities are trying to suppress the spread of unflattering news.  The US appears to be unwilling to apply pressure on Egypt, despite lavishing it with significant foreign aid.  Sissi runs few risks for dismantling Egyptian democracy.

Posted March 11, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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