Maduro Crisis in Venezuela
Earlier this month, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro began his second term following an election plagued with claims of vote-rigging and the exclusion of his opposition’s biggest candidate. That candidate, Juan Guaidó of the Popular Will party, declared himself “acting president” this week, a move that necessitated responses from multiple leaders. Guaidó has received support from twelve Latin American countries, as well as Canada, Great Britain and the United States. However, Mexico, Turkey, China and Russia have all backed Maduro’s regime. It has been reported more recently that Russian contractors have begun to provide for Maduro’s security.
Along with external pressure by both regional and great powers, the crisis in Venezuela is ramping up internally as well. The military has decidedly backed Maduro, but Guaidó made a plea for them to “put themselves on the side of the Venezuelan people.” All of this comes in light of both massive protests that have numbered up to a 100,000 and Pope Francis’s trip through Central America. A U.N. Security Council meeting to address the crisis was held on Saturday, Jan. 26.
China detains an Australian national
The Australian government is investigating the arrest of Australian-Chinese writer and academic Yang Hengjun in China. This comes amid heightened tensions over several other incidents involving the internment of westerners in China. According to the Australian Foreign Ministry, attempts to make contact with Yang have been made and updates on his condition have been scarce.
This event follows months of tension between the two countries over Australia’s decision to bar Huawei Technologies, a Chinese tech giant, from future 5G communication networks as well as to challenge Chinese influence in the South Pacific.
There is currently no indication as to whether Yang’s case was linked to this broader issue. Yang has been detained on prior trips to China. A notable example took place in 2011, during which Yang disappeared for several days, only to be released unharmed with no charges or explanation. The Australian government is attempting to establish contact with Chinese officials to organize Yang’s safe release.
U.N. expert to lead inquiry into Khashoggi murder
On Jan. 28, the U.N.’s investigation into the death of Jamal Khashoggi will officially be under way as Agnes Callamard, an expert on extrajudicial killings, will travel to Turkey for a week. The investigation comes after Turkish and American intelligence sources accused Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MbS) of direct involvement with the Washington Post reporter’s mysterious death in the Saudi embassy in October of 2018. Additionally, Turkish officials have endorsed the international investigation and claimed that Riyadh has not been cooperative thus far.
The Arabic kingdom has already indicted 11 people for connections to Khashoggi’s killing, and Saudi authorities are seeking the death penalty against five of them. However, the government has also denied the involvement of MbS in the death of Khashoggi, a Saudi national who used his stature as an international reporter to criticize the royal family.