“LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE!”
Venezuela’s opposition holds a symbolic vote on country’s future
A fifth of Venezuelans are expected to participate in a symbolic vote on President Nicolas Maduro’s plan to rewrite the country’s constitution today.
The oil-rich Latin American country has been mired in crisis since 2014, when a deep recession saw opposition protests against Maduro’s socialist policies. The crisis has intensified in recent months; ongoing large-scale protests have claimed the lives of more than 100 and resulted in thousands of arrests.
Today, voters will be asked whether they agree with the proposal—which Maduro insists is key to solving a protracted economic and political crisis—as well as seeking views on the military’s role in “recovering constitutional order”. While the military remains loyal to Maduro, it’s widely viewed as the only state organ with the power to oust the controversial president.
Venezuela’s pro-government electoral authority has refused to give its blessing to Sunday’s vote. Instead, it’s green-lighted Maduro’s plan to hold a dry-run of the July 30 election, which will install a special assembly to rewrite the constitution.
ROLLER COASTER RELATIONS
100 days of US-China trade talks overshadowed by North Korea
Today marks the deadline for China to open up to global credit ratings agencies and US beef imports. This follows 100 days of trade talks, begun when Chinese President Xi Jinping met Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago, the US president’s Florida resort.
Although candidate Trump attacked China for “ripping us left and right” in trade, the two presidents got along famously in Florida. Mr Trump has subsequently backpedaled on a campaign pledge to label China a currency manipulator.
For its part, Beijing has published rules allowing foreign credit agencies to register with the central bank—including US agencies suspicious of local ones. China is also importing its first American beef in 14 years to meet today’s deadline.
The good feelings are tapering off—after North Korea tested an ICBM, Trump tweeted “so much for China working with us”, citing increased Chinese-North Korean trade. The US also sanctioned a Chinese bank doing business with Pyongyang; further measures would risk sparking retaliatory action. Yet, Trump’s vacillating positions mean alternating ups and downs may be more likely than a steady decline in US-China relations.
BIBI AND THE BOY PRESIDENT
Netanyahu hopes Macron means a fresh start in Israel-France relations
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in Paris today to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv round-up of Jews in Nazi-occupied France. While there, he will meet with President Emmanuel Macron.
Mr Macron has undoubtedly pleased Israelis by vanquishing Marine Le Pen—who denied France’s culpability in the Vel d’Hiv. However, Netanyahu may be wary about how the visit plays back home, with new opposition leader Avi Gabbay—“Israel’s Macron”—seeking his own insurgent centrist victory in the 2019 election.
Yet, the PM will likely be more optimistic about Macron than about his predecessor. Francois Hollande capped off a poor relationship with Israel by holding a peace summit in February that Netanyahu boycotted and denounced as “rigged” against Israel.
To get off on the right foot, the two may focus on issues beyond the conflict with the Palestinians. Macron expressed interest in working with Israel on technological issues like cybersecurity and communications when he visited as economy minister, which could make tech a focus of today’s meeting.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is expected to publish targets for the renegotiation of NAFTA.
The Republic of the Congo (not to be confused with its larger neighbour, the Democratic Republic of Congo) will hold local and legislative elections.