Venezuelans Ask, ‘Is It Real This Time?’

(Bloomberg) --

Venezuela’s opposition will attempt to flex its muscles today by rallying supporters to the streets to demand President Nicolas Maduro hand over power.

A resurgent resistance is stoking optimism among political foes of the two-decade socialist regime. While Maduro’s opponents have gathered steam in the past only to be crushed, the opposition-led National Assembly is gaining international support, some poor neighborhoods are joining protests and sanctions are choking off cash.

January 23 is symbolic as it marks the end of dictatorship in 1958 when the military pulled its support for Marcos Perez Jimenez, forcing him to flee and ushering in a long period of democracy. For now, the push for change is internal as voices supporting a foreign intervention have gone quiet.

Since being sworn in for a second term earlier this month, Maduro has been further isolated, though he still has plenty of levers. The top military brass has been rewarded with economic benefits for backing his rule, millions of Venezuelans have fled and many who stayed depend on the government for food and welfare.

The opposition is led by Juan Guaido, a disciple of politician Leopoldo Lopez who is under house arrest for challenging Maduro in 2014. He’ll have to tread carefully or risk a similar fate.

Venezuelans Ask, ‘Is It Real This Time?’

Moving target | Donald Trump’s closest advisers have competing senses of what the president would be willing to concede to reopen the government, complicating negotiations to bridge the month-long impasse over border security funding. The first signs of movement from the Senate came yesterday, when leaders agreed to vote tomorrow on rival proposals to end the standoff. But neither measure is likely to advance. Meanwhile, the fallout continues:

Strategic opportunity | Russia and China are taking advantage of global political turmoil to expand their influence and undermine American goals, U.S. intelligence agencies say. Changes in the “strategic environment” including attacks on Western democracy and isolationist tendencies within governments have become major challenges, according to their strategy document issued every four years. The reference to a weakened international order is new compared to the 2014 version.

Promises, promises | Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow stressed that trade talks with China will hinge on Beijing following through on commitments made during negotiations, saying the U.S. wants to see “deadlines and timetables.” Chinese Vice Premier Liu He travels to Washington to meet with trade czar Robert Lighthizer later this month, a discussion Kudlow said would be “determinative.”

Bit player | The leading 2020 Democratic presidential contenders are mostly ignoring Trump as they launch their campaigns. The absence reflects a mix of Trump fatigue among some progressives and the more urgent need for candidates to distinguish themselves in a potentially crowded field, Sahil Kapur writes. It mirrors a strategy employed by many of the Democrats who were successful in the November midterm congressional elections.

Chancellor’s downfall | Europe’s dominant leader saw her power slip away at home last year as her party rebelled against her support for immigration. Arne Delfs and Ben Sills take an exclusive inside look at how conservatives in Germany’s Christian Democratic Union moved against Angela Merkel to bring the end of her time in office into view.

What to Watch

  • The Trump administration can start barring most transgender people from serving in the armed forces after a divided U.S. Supreme Court put on hold lower court decisions that had blocked the planned ban from taking effect.

  • Friends fear writer and former Chinese diplomat Yang Hengjun, now an Australian citizen, is missing after he failed to make the second leg of a flight from New York to Shanghai. Australia’s government said it’s seeking information about the case.

And finally... Businessmen and politicians who held secret discussions in a Latvian sauna may be sweating more now than when they visited. As Aaron Eglitis and Andrew Langley report, it turns out anti-corruption agents were listening to their conversations in the Taureni resort complex near a secluded reservoir outside Riga. Clandestine recordings have already triggered bribery charges against the country’s central bank governor and uncovered a rigged public-transport tender in the capital. The question now is how many more tapes are out there?

Venezuelans Ask, ‘Is It Real This Time?’

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