Europe/Americas update: February 25 2019

So this post began as a world update, but then some extremely extra stuff happened around Kashmir and so I broke the Asia-Africa material out into its own post, which is now here.



ExxonMobil is expected to announce soon that it’s discovered a major gas field off of Cyprus’s southern coast. This could be a game-changing development for the island nation, though in the short term it promises to increase tensions over Cyprus’s Greek-Turkish split and Turkey’s claim of protectorship over Turkish Cypriots. Ankara says it will block any attempt to exploit offshore assets unless Turkish Cypriots are involved in the effort and will benefit from it. This might be the push the island’s two sides need to finally reunite the country, but they’ve got a long way to go before that happens.


Moldova held a parliamentary election on Sunday, and as is increasingly the case in pretty much every European election, it was inconclusive. The main opposition Socialist party, pro-Russia in orientation, won 35 seats, while the Moldova’s current ruling party, the pro-European Union Democratic party, won 30 seats–both far short of a majority in the 101 seat parliament. A third, anti-corruption party, ACUM, may hold the balance of power with its 26 seats. There are some accusations of voting irregularities that have to be worked out, but then negotiations can begin on what I’m sure will be an unwieldy and ultimately unpopular coalition.


Theresa May is reportedly considering plans to extend the Brexit deadline past March 29, in order to avoid the UK crashing out of the EU without an agreement in place. May is facing a revolt from a substantial number of Tories who reject a no-deal Brexit and will work against her to prevent it if necessary. But her shift here is likely to anger Brexit hardliners who prefer a no-deal scenario to the agreement May negotiated with the EU last year. Meanwhile, the Labour Party has maybe come down off the Brexit fence and is suggesting it will support a second referendum. This shift is likely to land Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in hot water with Labour MPs who support Brexit in principle, though it may keep additional Labour members from defecting to the newly formed Blairite “Independent Group,” which formed in part over opposition to Corbyn’s Brexit approach.



Hey, this sounds very normal and very cool:

Brazil’s new right-wing government requested on Monday that schools film their students singing the national anthem and that a message including President Jair Bolsonaro’s campaign slogan be read aloud to classes.

Education Minister Ricardo Velez Rodriguez sent a letter to schools requesting that teachers submit videos to the ministry of the readings and singing, according to a ministry statement.

“Brazilians! Let us greet new times in Brazil and celebrate responsible and quality education being developed in our schools by teachers, for the benefits of you, the students, who constitute the new generation,” the message to be read aloud says.

The message concludes with “Brazil above everything, God above everyone,” Bolsonaro’s campaign slogan.

Hell yeah, this fascist Brazilian government isn’t leading to a really bad place or anything.


Al Jazeera reports that the death toll from the weekend’s humanitarian aid-related violence along the Venezuela-Brazil border is believed to stand at around 25:

The Trump administration’s immediate response to Saturday’s events has been relatively muted. It levied sanctions against four more members of Nicolás Maduro’s inner circle on Monday and called on leaders of the anti-Maduro Lima Group member states to freeze the assets of PDVSA, Venezuela’s state oil company, and to “transfer ownership of Venezuelan assets in your country from Maduro’s henchmen to” self-declared interim president Juan Guaidó. These steps would be part of the ongoing effort to get Maduro’s supporters to turn on him by hitting them in the pocketbook. The US has also requested a United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss Venezuela on Tuesday.

Any plans the administration might have for military action will likely not get wide support. The Brazilian government, despite its opposition to Maduro, says it will not allow the US to stage an invasion from its territory. And the European Union said on Monday that “we must avoid a military intervention” in Venezuela.


Cuban voters on Sunday ratified their new constitution in a national referendum, with just under 85 percent voting in favor of the revised charter. The new constitution enshrines the Communist Party’s single-party rule but does open up the Cuban economy a bit to market-oriented changes and makes some changes to the structure of the Cuban government.


Finally, at Fellow Travelers Nicholas Mulder, responding to a previous piece there, argues that broad-based economic sanctions and leftist foreign policy shouldn’t mix:

Earlier this month Neil Bhatiya made a counter-case for economic sanctions as a tool of progressive foreign policy, arguing that “any measure that widens the distance between peace and war should be in the foreign policy toolbox.” If sanctions can effectively accomplish the same goals as military force, then they could be seen as a tool that forestalls war. Bhatiya and Drezner both argue that sanctions, if properly applied, can do just that: deter some state actions and compel others. Recent sanctions successes, they claim, justify keeping broad-based sanctions in the progressive foreign policy toolbox. The historical record, however, is not nearly that clear.

There are several reasons why the dominant discourse about sanctions is in need of serious revision. First, sanctions advocates usually fail to make a plausible case that war is really the only alternative to sanctions. Their reasoning often depends on mere assertion or unsupported counterfactuals. Second, many claims of policy successes through sanctions are empirically uncompelling–the process by which sanctions purportedly cause policy changes is murky at best. We need history and qualitative regional and area expertise, as well as a truly international viewpoint, to assess the record of sanctions. Last, given the moral risk of collateral damage that punitive economic measures entail, a high burden of proof that sanctions will achieve their stated aims is the least we can demand from policymakers.

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