7 January 2018   2 comments

The German Social Democratic Party (SPD) is playing hardball with German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she tries to assemble a majority coalition government.  The SPD party members believe that they have sacrificed too much in the most recent agreement with Merkel and are demanding a stronger voice in decisions concerning social and infrastructure spending.  Merkel’s previous government coalitions have favored austerity measures and tight budget discipline, measures that are consistent with Germany’s position on broader European Union matters.  But, as she tries for an unprecedented fourth Chancellorship, Merkel may find that she has to break with the past.  It is not clear how strong a coalition could be formed at this point, but Merkel clearly does not wish to default to a minority government which would be likely too fragile to handle the issues Germany and Europe faces in the near future.

 

Venezuelans continue to suffer in ways that are simply incomprehensible given that the country should be among the richest in the world.  The economy is dead in the water and inflation is running at an average of about 50% a month.  If one calculates the average wages of Venezuelan workers into calories, it is clear that the country cannot survive:

“… the minimum wage (the wage earned by the median worker) measured in the cheapest available calorie, had declined from 52,854 calories per day in May 2012 to just 7,005 by May 2017 – not enough to feed a family of five.

“Since then, conditions have deteriorated dramatically. By last month, the minimum wage had fallen to just 2,740 calories a day. And proteins are in even shorter supply. Meat of any kind is so scarce that the market price of a kilogram is equivalent to more than a week of minimum-wage work.”

Organized opposition to the government of Nicolas Maduro has been completely neutered.  The legislative assembly has been sidelined, opposition parties have been banned, and the judicial branch is completely controlled by the government.  The Venezuelan people have been completely abandoned by the international community.

Aftermath of a Food Riot In Venezuela, June 2016

Shortage of food and rationing has led to looting.

 

The US is threatening to cut funding to the UN Relief Works Agency (UNRWA), an agency that  has supported about 5 million Palestinian refugees since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.  The agency was created in response to the massive movement of Arabs out of the Jewish Zone created by the UN which ultimately became the state of Israel.  That movement was considered coerced by many Arabs who did not wish to live in a state governed by Jewish laws and therefore those who left were considered refugees.  Israel, however, does not consider those people refugees since they could have decided to stay.  Thus, the agency was born in a highly contested political environment and that political atmosphere has never diminished.  However, the humanitarian issue of how to care for people who have no permanent residence and lack the protection of a sovereign state is also quite real.  The potential cutoff of US aid to these people will simply aggravate the humanitarian crisis and will undoubtedly spill over into political and strategic matters.

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Posted January 7, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

2 responses to “7 January 2018

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