Political Developments - September 2016

Brazil’s President Ms Dilma Rousseff was formally removed from office on 31 August. The Senate, after an impeachment trial, voted 61-20 against her. A second vote did not render her ineligible for public office for 8 years, seen as a partial victory for her defence. On 29 August, in a 14 hour appearance before mostly hostile Senators, in an impassioned defence, she criticised the ‘parliamentary coup’ and illegitimacy of the process, with several the Senators judging her either being proceeded against for corruption or under a cloud. Dilma herself was not accused of corruption, but of a ‘crime of responsibility’ for manipulating state accounts to conceal government expenses.
The Olympic Games were inaugurated at a gala ceremony in Rio de Janeiro on 5 August, highlighting Brazilian diversity and creativity. The games concluded on 21 August without a hitch, despite warnings about faulty infrastructure, the Zika virus, violence, even terrorism. Acting President Michel Temer avoided the closing ceremony, reportedly apprehending protests by those who question his legitimacy. At 75, he was sworn in on 31 August as the oldest of all 41 Brazilian presidents.
After four years and an intense week of final talks, the government of Colombia and the FARC announced on 24 August in Havana the conclusion of the final agreement – running into 297 pages - for an end to the 52-year long civil war. Earlier the Constitutional Court ratified the government’s proposal for a plebiscite – scheduled for 2 October - to approve the final agreement with a minimum positive vote of 13 percent of the electorate, or just over 4 million votes. The final agreement is expected to be signed in September by President Santos and the FARC chief Rodrigo Londoño, alias Timochenko. 
The agreement has wide international support, with the UN to provide a force to monitor the handing over of weapons by the FARC. Norway and Cuba are guarantors, while Venezuela and Chile are facilitators of the negotiations and the agreement.
Political turmoil in Venezuela cast a shadow on relations with its partners in Mercosur (Common Market of the South). Venezuela was admitted to the bloc in 2012 but has been unable to integrate into the common market and had not implemented the common external tariff by the due date of 12 August. Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina insisted Venezuela could not take over the rotating presidency in July. The resistance largely stems from Venezuela’s incongruence within a currently market-friendly Mercosur.  
Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina also support the political opposition in Venezuela which, despite holding a two-thirds parliamentary majority, is virtually toothless. Shortages and hyper-inflation have increased support for an immediate recall referendum against President Nicolas Maduro. On 12 August, 13 Latin American countries - Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay - joined Canada and the US at the Organisation of American States to call inter alia for ‘the realization of the Presidential Recall Referendum …. without delay’.
Maduro in turn has tightened his grip by giving the military more control. On 12 July, he appointed Defence Minister General Vladimir Padrino head of the economic cabinet, above pro-business Economy Minister Miguel Perez Abad, who was replaced. In August, another general, Nestor Reverol – indicted by the US for drug traficking - was appointed Interior and Justice Minister. 
On 13 August, Cuba celebrated Fidel Castro’s 90th birthday. In an article titled ‘My Birthday’ (www.cubadebate.cu) he outlined the problems of the modern world like overpopulation, nuclear weapons and the importance of education. Despite the establishment of full diplomatic relations with the US, he continues to refer to it as ‘the empire’, and to China and Russia as ‘great powers’.
September 7, 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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