Political Developments - November 2016

Vice President M H Ansari led the Indian delegation to the 17th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Venezuela. Venezuela presides over the movement till 2019 when it will hand over to Azerbaijan. There had been speculation in Indian media that PM Modi, the second Indian PM after Charan Singh in 1979 to not attend a NAM Summit, had downgraded the movement. Only 8 of the 120 delegations in fact were headed by Presidents, mainly left-wing allies of the ALBA bloc of LAC (35 went to Teheran in 2012). Political turmoil in Venezuela had delayed the Summit by over a year. President Maduro was booed and ran away from an angry mob days before the summit in Porlamar, capital of Margarita island, the Summit venue. 
On 16 September, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, with Uruguay abstaining, derecognised Venezuela’s 6-month presidency of Mercosur, which will be exercised by a coordinating committee of the founding members. The resolution also called on Venezuela to comply with the group's legislation and relevant international treaties by 1 December 2016, failing which Venezuela’s voting rights will be “transitorily” suspended.
In the October municipal elections in Brazil, the left-wing PT of former Presidents Lula and Rouseff lost about two-thirds of the mayoralties it had held. Eduardo Cunha, the former President (speaker) of the Chamber of Deputies, one of the key figures in the impeachment of former President Rousseff was arrested on 19 October for lying about secret offshore bank accounts in Switzerland and banned from politics for eight years. 
Brazilian politics will remain in flux well into next year. The regional scenario is also impacted by the hard Mercosur line against Venezuela which stands ever more isolated. The NAM Summit was an unsuccessful attempt to shore up its popularity. Venezuela is attempting desperately to seek consensus in OPEC on production cuts and settle its unmanageable external debt.
Colombia’s peace process was set back by a narrow vote - 50.21% to 49.78% - on 2 October against the agreement reached between the government and the FARC in September. The government, with unanimous backing of the international community, was confident of a Yes vote at ostentatious signing ceremonies in Havana and in Cartagena earlier. President Juan Manuel Santos, determined to rescue the process, began immediate negotiations with his opponents, led by former President Alvaro Uribe. His officials returned to Havana to recommence talks with the FARC. On 7 October Santos was awarded the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize.
With the political opposition claiming they are not against peace and outlining their objections to certain aspects of the agreement, principally impunity for the guerillas, representation for them in Congress, etc. the agreement could be salvaged. The bilateral ceasefire has continued and FARC asked the UN to proceed with its involvement in disarmament, etc. The Nobel prize has bolstered the peace process, which may include the ELN, a smaller guerilla group, making the eventual peace more durable.
November 4, 2016
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About the Author

Ambassador Deepak Bhojwani

Former Ambassador of India to Colombia, Venezuela and Cuba and Distinguished Fellow, Ananta Centre

Ambassador Deepak Bhojwani joined the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) in 1978. He retired in February 2012. During his career, he was accredited as Ambassador in seven Latin American countries, resident in Colombia, Venezuela and Cuba, concurrent in Ecuador, Costa Rica, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, and was Consul General in Sao Paulo. He served abroad in three Continents – Asia (Indonesia and Malaysia), Europe (Spain and Czech Republic) and Latin America.

In the Ministry of External Affairs, he served in the Divisions dealing with Administration; West Asia and North Africa; US and Canada; and had a brief stint at the United Nations.

Ambassador Bhojwani also served as Private Secretary to the Prime Minister of India, Mr P.V.Narasimha Rao for two years from 1994 to 1996, and as Special Assistant to the Minister of State for External Affairs and for Science and Technology, Mr K.R.Narayanan, from 1985 till 1988.

He writes extensively on Latin America and its relations with India. He has written a book published in 2015 titled ‘Latin America, the Caribbean and India: Promise and Challenge’.

He is currently a Consultant for Latin America and the Caribbean through his firm LATINDIA (www.latindia.in)

Ambassador Bhojwani also serves as Independent Director on the Board of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd., one of the largest state oil and gas companies of India.

Since January 2017 he has been Country Manager and Director, Magotteaux Industries Pvt. Ltd.

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