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CWA # 84, 3 February 2019

The World This Week
Yemen, Venezuela and US-China

  GP Team

This week the world affairs took a turn with internal political crisis brewing in Venezuela and a new challenge arising for the humanitarian aid in Yemen. With the economy taking a free fall and currency dipping a new low will the new president be able to rein the political currents for a better economy in Venezuela? What will be the impact of the Pope’s words? Additionally even though the UN has managed to give the humanitarian aids to Yemen the continued Houthi attack on the aid storage plants has added to the perils of the country, will the aid groups be able to remain away from getting involved in the conflict’s politics?  With a US-China truce countdown on board, the world will see how the major power confrontation and competition will take a turn. 

Sourina Bej and Harini Madhusudan
Research Associates,
International Strategic and Security Studies Programme (ISSSP), NIAS

 

Venezuela’s Political Crisis: A Blessing in Disguise? 
On 23 January the opposition leader of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, declared himself acting president thereby directly challenging the power of the sitting President Nicolás Maduro and said he would assume the powers of the executive branch from there onwards. President Maduro was sworn in as the president for the second time just two weeks before Guaido declared himself as the president. 


The May 2018 election was highly contested with the opposition not recognising the election result and calling it unfair. Maduro has seen it as US ploy and has warned of an internal civil war if the US intervenes. The support for the opposition leader as the new President has increased globally with countries like US Canada and EU states supporting the sanctity of the new president. Domestically it is the anti-incumbency sentiments that have incentivised Guaidó’s position as the new head of the state. Under the socialist rule, the economy of the country had taken a fall and under Maduro, the currency of Venezuela reached an all-time low against the dollar. The people have slowly shifted out of the country in search of better opportunity hence it depends on the new President how he will solve the internal tiff keeping in mind the economic needs of the people. The 35-year-old Juan Guaidó has also taken the military into his side in case of an internal civil war. 

 

Yemen Crisis: New challenges to humanitarian aid and Pope’s message before the UAE visit


As one of the firsts by a Pope to the Arabian Peninsula, the Pope announced a historic three-day visit to the UAE on 3 February 2019. In his speech, he said, “I appeal to all parties concerned and to the international community to allow the urgent respect of established accords to ensure to ensure the distribution of food and to work for the good of the population, I am following the humanitarian crisis in Yemen with great concern.” 


Previously, on 24 January 2019, a fire broke at vital wheat storage, milling and redistribution hub of the World Food Programme (WFP) on Hodeida’s outskirts. The UAE alleges that it was caused by a Houthi mortar. The fire damaged two silos at Red Sea Mills, the disruption, endangered around a quarter of all WFP wheat supplies in Yemen along with milling capacity for further food assistance. WFP has not been able to, enter or directly assess the damage to the storage facility. 


The region has been on the edge of one of the main frontlines around Hodeida since September when the fighting broke out. The Houthis have mined the area around the mill. This has cut off access from the city. Lack of access has made the situation difficult for food import and distribution. The UN has no way to know how much of wheat is still in storage and how much is still consumable. A number of traders and humanitarian organisations have now begun to import food and aid through the Salala port in Western Oman. This is because the Aden port also has been posing challenges to these groups with logistical and security constraints. This approach to aid could also be because the situation may push Yemen into famine and the humanitarian groups do not want to be entangled in the conflict’s politics. 


The Second Round: US-China trade talks 

USA and China held their second round of negotiations at Washington on the 30 and 31 of January last week. As per US media, the two countries will have a deadline of March 2 to reach an agreement. Otherwise, the United States has warned to raise tariffs on $200 billions of Chinese imports. The talks primarily focused on structural issues such as forced technology transfers, intellectual property protection, market access, the trade deficit, cyber theft, government subsidies to China’s state-owned organizations, and currency controls. However, the negotiation table could not trace enforcement measures to implement the agreed changes. 


As of now, Trump has confirmed that his administration will not make any final verdict until he holds a meeting with the Chinese president Xi Jinping. Earlier, the American President had also further lauded Beijing’s efforts in amending laws relating to reforming its laws on forced technology transfers and intellectual property protection alongside an agreement for China to buy US soybeans. With China facing an internal economic crisis in its domestic markets, the White House is sure to get its strategy of the confrontation right. On the flip side, no transition can happen overnight in a longstanding array of indifference. Hence, it is clear at this point that an agreement even without clear enforcement measures will help in easing the tensions lingering between the duo to an extent. 

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