Plus: Turkey’s president wheels-and-deals in India
LARGE-SCALE PROTESTS IN VENEZUELA
Venezuela’s political crisis will again reach fever pitch on Monday when both government and opposition groups stage major demonstrations to commemorate International Labour Day. Sporadic violence and some loss of life is expected.
President Maduro’s socialist government stands accused of perpetuating Venezuela’s devastating economic crisis – the economy is expected to enter its fourth year of recession in 2017. Diosdado Cabello, a Maduro loyalist and former parliamentary speaker, says Monday’s pro-government rally will be “the largest in the history of this country”.
But the tide appears to be shifting as the poor, which traditionally have been core supporters of the government, begin to join opposition rallies. They do so at great personal risk – pro-government groups have threatened to deny food rations to any who fail to toe the party line.
If protests continue to fail to deliver regime change, a military coup becomes a more tangible possibility – a move encouraged by an opposition leader last month. Whether the threat of military action is enough to force the government to step down remains to be seen, but the consequences will likely be dire for Venezuela if they do not.
TURKEY’S PRESIDENT IN NEW DELHI
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet Indian PM Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Monday. While ties between India and Turkey are good (and warming), two unresolved issues are expected to form the basis of discussions.
The first is Turkey’s historic resistance to Indian membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group – an organisation that controls trade in sensitive nuclear technologies. India has long sought membership of the NSG to advance its civilian nuclear industry but its status as a non-signatory to a key nuclear weapons treaty has hampered its ambitions.
For his part, President Erdogan is likely to again raise the prospect of taking action against the Gulen movement – the global Islamist organisation headed by Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan accused of orchestrating last year’s coup attempt. Last year, the Turkish government had asked India to combat the group’s presence within its borders – a request that was met with a tepid response in New Delhi.
Perhaps, as some analysts have suggested, Monday’s talks will form the basis for a broad agreement on these two separate issues.
ON THE BRINK OF BANKRUPTCY
A freeze on legal action by creditors against $70-billion-in-debt Puerto Rico will expire on Monday, exposing the US territory to an onslaught of lawsuits by unhappy financers.
Creditors clamouring for better returns have rejected Governor Ricardo Rossello’s recent attempts at debt restructuring. Edgy at the prospects of lawsuits, the federal oversight board has begun discussing the implementation of Title III, a bankruptcy-like process which will reinstate government protection against legal action and lets it impose severe repayment cuts.
However, Governor Rossello has good reason to hold back Title III proceedings. A declaration of bankruptcy damages his chances of soliciting badly needed US federal funding – the territory needs at least $900 million to last until mid-2018. The governor also has an eye on a June 11 referendum, which asks Puerto Ricans to choose between US statehood or independence.
May Day rallies are expected across the world. Some 150,000 are expected to take to the streets in Jakarta with smaller demonstrations expected in South Africa and Germany (among others).
French presidential hopefuls Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen will kick off a frantic week of campaigning with major events in Paris. Centrist Macron remains the favourite heading into Sunday’s vote, although Ms Le Pen is closing the gap.