Europe/Americas update: June 9-10 2018



The Polish government says that it has stopped trying to negotiate with the European Union over its judicial reforms:

Jacek Sasin, an aide to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, said the government has “run out of concessions” and expects the European Commission to withdraw its threats to punish Poland over the changes that give the justice minister and the president roles in the appointment of judges.

“We are waiting for the other side’s move,” Sasin said on Poland’s state-owned TV. “For now, we are seeing no such will there.”

The EU believes Poland’s judicial reforms have undermined the independence of its judiciary. And, you know, that may be right. It has already opened an Article 7 action against Poland, which could ultimately lead to punishments levied against Poland by Brussels except insofar as Poland’s right-wing allies within the EU–Hungary chief among them–will likely work to prevent that from happening.


New Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist party is enjoying a polling boost since Sánchez ousted former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy a couple of weeks ago. Some polling prior to Rajoy’s ouster put the socialists in fourth place, but those numbers have shifted in a big way:

In a GAD3 poll taken on June 7-8 for newspaper ABC, the Socialists were seen winning 28.8 percent of the vote, ahead of the PP with 25.6 percent, market friendly Ciudadanos with 21.1 percent and anti-austerity party Podemos with 13.1 percent.

In the newspaper La Razon, a NC Report poll taken on June 1-9 put the Socialists in a close second place on 24.9 percent behind the PP on 25.5 percent. Ciudadanos, which has led some recent polls, stood at 21.0 percent and Podemos at 16.7 percent.



Right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro continues to lead polling ahead of Brazil’s October presidential election with 19 percent of the vote, according to a new survey by the pollster Datafolha. Bolsonaro picked up two points from the same survey in April, perhaps due to his recent show of support for striking Brazilian truckers. But the race remains largely unsettled with former frontrunner Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva out of the race. A third of voters still don’t have a preference, and some 30 percent of voters say that they’ll support any candidate Lula endorses.


The death toll in Nicaragua continues to increase, as two more people were reportedly killed during protests against President Daniel Ortega on Friday night and into Saturday morning. That brings the death toll related to these protests to 137 since they began in April.


Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s lead is up to 17 points in new polling ahead of next month’s Mexican presidential election. The latest Consulta Mitofsky poll has him at 37.2 percent, up almost five points from their May survey. Second place Ricardo Anaya remained relatively steady at 20.3 percent.

Addressing the fat orange elephant in the room, López Obrador told a campaign crowd on Sunday that he hopes to stop Donald Trump from building a border wall and instead focus on economic growth and job creation as tools to keep Mexicans and Central Americans from attempting to enter the United States. He wants to encourage Trump to revisit John F. Kennedy’s “Alliance for Progress,” which sought to boost capital investment in Latin America in part through increased US aid tied to economic reform. Of course, that program largely failed and Trump is no Kennedy, but other than that…


Two more US diplomats in Cuba appear to have come down with the mystery ailment that has afflicted many of their colleagues, as well as a handful of US diplomats in China, and is still being blamed on some sort of “sonic attack” that nobody can actually identify. Research into the ailment continues to produce more questions than answers.


Welp, the G7 meeting in Canada ended on Saturday in a way that I think surpassed all expectations for absurdity and pettiness:

President Trump upended two days of global economic diplomacy late Saturday, refusing to sign a joint statement with America’s allies, threatening to escalate his trade war on the country’s neighbors and deriding Canada’s prime minister as “very dishonest and weak.”

In a remarkable pair of acrimony-laced tweets from aboard Air Force One as he flew away from the Group of 7 summit toward a meeting with North Korea’s leader, Mr. Trump lashed out at Justin Trudeau. He accused the prime minister, who hosted the seven-nation gathering, of making false statements.

Literally moments after Mr. Trudeau’s government proudly released the joint statement, noting it had been agreed to by all seven countries, Mr. Trump blew apart the veneer of cordiality that had prevailed throughout the two days of meetings in a resort town on the banks of the St. Lawrence River.

“Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!” Mr. Trump wrote.

We have now reached the point where MTV could come in and film one of these multilateral summits, edit it into a season’s worth of episodes, call it a new season of The Real World, and nobody would really know the difference. Trump’s initial decision to sign the joint statement was a bit of a surprise, given that he’d done nothing but complain about the G7 for days leading up to the summit, but the statement itself was so broad and vague as to be virtually meaningless. Then Trudeau said something that obviously outraged Trump enough to blow things up. What was it that he said? Well, Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow explained on Sunday, but managed to do so without clearing things up at all:

Donald’s Trump’s chief economic adviser said the US pulled out of a G7 communique because the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, “stabbed us in the back” and accused the leader of one America’s most important allies of playing a “sophomoric political stunt for domestic consumption”.

In an extraordinary interview with CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Larry Kudlow, who was present for negotiations at the G7 summit in Quebec over the weekend, said Trudeau had instigated “a betrayal” and was “essentially double-crossing President Trump”.

Trudeau used a media conference on Saturday to reject a US demand for a sunset clause in the North American trade agreement, Nafta, that Trump has at different times pressed to abolish or renegotiate. The prime minister also said Canada would “move forward with retaliatory measures” in response to the Trump administration’s move to impose tariffs on aluminium and steel imports from the European Union, Mexico and Canada.

I have to admit I don’t really have any words to describe what happened here except to assume that Donald Trump and his staff believe they’re back in high school. That’s the only environment in which this kind of “OMG YOU’RE SUCH A FAKE FRIEND I HATE YOU SO MUCH YOU TRIED TO DESTROY ME” talk isn’t completely inappropriate. If you have 15 minutes and a deep sense of self loathing, please watch Kudlow have what appears to be some kind of dissociative episode on live TV Sunday morning:

There are a couple of illustrative points here, I think. One is Trump’s pathological fear of appearing weak, because pretty much every interaction Trump has turns into a dick-measuring contest. The other is the sheer outrage these people seem to have at the notion that leaders of other nations should have priorities other than lining up to kiss Donald Trump’s gigantic diapered ass. Trump’s trade adviser, Peter Navarro, went on Fox News on Sunday and said “there’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door, and that’s what Bad Faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference.” Those words actually came out of the mouth of a senior White House official. Other than Trump himself, I mean.

Kudlow’s boss, by the way, is on a two-day Twitter bender with no end in sight, though one hopes he’ll give it a rest when he meets with Kim Jong-un on Tuesday:

The end result is that Donald Trump appears to have wrecked the US-Canada relationship, an astonishing feat, as well as further setting back relations between the US and its European allies. John Bolton is crowing that the United States will no longer serve as the “bank” for the rest of the world, which is a role that the US happily and voluntarily took on because it then became the basis for most of its global hegemony over the past 50 or so years. And, you know, the rest of the world will probably be better off if the US really does stop being everyone’s bank. But the people who revel in US dominance over the planet–people like, uh, John Bolton–will not. In his zeal to look tough and manly before his meeting with Kim, Trump has now created a situation in which, to avoid looking like a totally incompetent idiot whose big week of travels produced absolutely nothing, he may jump impulsively at whatever Kim offers, even if it sucks.

If there really is a multiverse of infinite possible outcomes, then there’s a different world in which US voters elected a president–and no, it probably wouldn’t have been Hillary Clinton–who recognized that the days of unfettered US domination were over and carefully managed that decline into a transition to stable multipolar world with strong international institutions. Instead we’ve elected a president who’s not only sped up the decline, he’s pouring gasoline all over everything on his way down and will certainly light a match when he hits bottom. Enjoy the ride, I guess.

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