Can Nicolas Maduro Weather a Second Term?

(Bloomberg) --

Venezuela’s president has survived protests, impeachment drives, an assassination attempt and U.S. sanctions.

But can Nicolas Maduro weather a second term? The answer hinges on the crippled economy, Alex Vasquez and Andrew Rosati write, as the successor to the late Hugo Chavez begins a new six-year stint in power.

Feeding a hungry nation, kick-starting production at state oil company PDVSA and fending off creditors are among his most pressing challenges.

Hyperinflation, which Bloomberg’s Cafe Con Leche Index puts at nearly 225,000 percent, has prompted a mass exodus from a country that was once South America’s wealthiest. Blackouts and crumbling services are endemic. In Caracas, residents line up at mountain springs to fill jugs and bathe children, while the hungry pick through garbage bins.

Further isolation makes tackling problems even more difficult: More than 60 nations refuse to recognize Maduro’s election victory, and his efforts to deepen ties with authoritarian allies Russia, China and Turkey have yielded limited support.

Still, Maduro has been defiant throughout. What remains of the political opposition is fragmented, and he enjoys the support of key figures in the military and police.

If Maduro can start the oil flowing again, it would help keep prices low – an important benchmark for U.S. President Donald Trump. It would also give him more staying power.

Can Nicolas Maduro Weather a Second Term?

Global Headlines

Shutdown breakdown | Trump’s decision to bid “bye bye” to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and storm out of a White House meeting brings relations with Democrats to a new low just as the impact of the nearly three-week government shutdown is intensifying. Some 800,000 federal workers will miss their paychecks tomorrow, spreading financial pain to families across the country. Trump heads to the U.S.-Mexico border today to rally support for building a wall, the central issue in the standoff.

Read more:

  • Ryan Beene and Jennifer A. Dlouhy take a closer look at how Trump’s wall battle is keeping him from honoring some of his other high-profile campaign pledges and policy priorities.

  • For Trump, storming out of a meeting is a signature ploy.

Can Nicolas Maduro Weather a Second Term?

Brexit abyss | Another dramatic day in the U.K. Parliament saw Prime Minister Theresa May openly contemplating “Plan B,” with the Brexit deal she struck with Brussels almost certainly doomed. Britain remains divided over leaving the EU, but as David Goodman and Jess Shankleman write, it’s also conflicted over its place in the world. While Leavers promise a return of British grandeur, the split may leave the country diminished.

Seeking assurance | The Trump administration is pushing for a way to make sure China delivers on its commitments in any deal the two nations reach to defuse a trade war roiling financial markets. Things are no less tricky at home, where Trump is setting himself up for a fight with congressional Republicans if he seeks expanded unilateral tariff powers, Jenny Leonard reports.

Employment boom | Trump is presiding over the best U.S. job market in decades, a fact he's eager to tout. What’s less certain is how much responsibility he can actually claim. There’s no easy way to determine how many of the 2.64 million jobs added in 2018 and 2.19 million in Trump’s first year resulted directly from his policies. Shobhana Chandra explains why.

Can Nicolas Maduro Weather a Second Term?

False dawn | The first-ever victory by an opposition presidential candidate in the Democratic Republic of Congo was announced early today. But it has been marred by allegations from a rival that the electoral commission rigged the result in favor of Felix Tshisekedi because he’s considered less of a threat to probe corruption during the Kabila family’s reign. The dispute over the ballot, which was delayed for two years, is threatening to spark instability in the world’s top producer of cobalt.

What to Watch

  • South Korean President Moon Jae-in said a second summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un was imminent.
  • Germany's Angela Merkel heads to Greece for meetings with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, signaling a return to her international agenda in the final phase of her chancellorship. 
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will brief key House Democrats on plans to end sanctions against three companies tied to Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska.

And finally ... A Belle-Epoque restaurant is engulfed in a dispute over Viktor Orban’s governing style, which protesters have denounced as authoritarian. Gundel, founded during the heyday of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, won the catering contract for the Hungarian prime minister’s new offices overlooking the Danube River. While entrees cost $20-$60, Orban’s staff can eat a two-course lunch for about $3, an arrangement that triggered outrage among critics who say the premier lavishes benefits on loyalist elite.

Can Nicolas Maduro Weather a Second Term?

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