July 2017


The History of the Venezuelan Crisis: How Did We Get Here?

Less than fifty years ago, Venezuela was the richest country in Latin America. Hard to believe when dramatic inflation numbers and deadly protests have recurrently made the headlines over the past four months. During the Venezuelan crisis, more than 100 people have been killed in protests that started in April 2017, with thousands wounded and hundreds arrested. Tensions between the local population and President Nicolás Maduro’s autocratic government have increased. Venezuela faces a deadlock. But, how did we get here?

Venezuela’s current crisis started over two decades ago. For years, the country has become trapped in a downward spiral of corruption, poor leadership, and mismanagement of its most important resource: oil. Venezuela owns the largest reservoir of extra heavy oil in the world and is the world’s fifth largest oil exporter. A rewind of Venezuela’s economic and political history offers the best chance of understanding the crisis it faces today.

Lenin Moreno and the Future of Ecuador

Ecuador’s new President, Lenin Moreno, is an unusual politician for more reasons than just his idiosyncratic first name. Moreno is a paraplegic who was shot during a robbery-gone-wrong in 1998. In the course of his convalescence, Moreno turned to laughter therapy, later setting up a foundation to encourage humour and joy. He is likely to need all his reserves of good humour in his new position as he takes responsibility for his country’s governance.

Moreno’s victory celebrations are likely to be short-lived as the challenges of government land on his desk. His dilemma will be how to satisfy the demands of his left-wing supporters for continued high spending on Ecuador’s public services, while simultaneously managing a shrinking economy, whose reliance on stagnant oil revenues and addiction to debt, limit his room for manoeuvre. If he fails to solve this puzzle there is a risk that his government will be tempted to deal with public protests through heavy-handed state intervention. This has been seen in Ecuador before when in 2015 police used tear gas and clubs to disperse protesters.

Obstructing Humanitarian Assistance in Syria: A Weapon of Warfare

The Syrian conflict continues to shake the world. The massive influx of refugees into neighbouring countries, the untold suffering of the Syrian people, and the razing of whole cities are some of the destructive characteristics of this war. The participation of other countries, such as the U.S., Turkey, Iran and Russia, has triggered a debate around whether this armed conflict is of an international or of an internal character. This controversy has complicated the issue regarding the application of the rules of armed conflict as far as obstructing humanitarian assistance is concerned.

The following analysis will be around two major issues: first, whether these unspeakable conditions constitute a weapon of warfare for the Parties or are they just a consequence of the conflict; secondly, whether the UN has the power to intervene and protect the civilians. This discussion will be based on the legal framework regarding the obstruction of humanitarian assistance during armed conflicts and the UN’s position.