James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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The World Next Week: Venezuela Marks the First Anniversary of Chavez’s Death, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Visits Washington, and President Obama Releases His FY2015 Budget Plan

by James M. Lindsay
February 28, 2014

Demonstrators protest the Venezuelan government in San Cristobal, about 410 miles southwest of Caracas. (Carlos Garcia/Courtesy Reuters). Demonstrators protest the Venezuelan government in San Cristobal, about 410 miles southwest of Caracas. (Carlos Garcia/Courtesy Reuters).

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the first anniversary of Hugo Chavez’s death amid widespread protests in Venezuela, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the United States, and Obama’s budget for the 2015 fiscal year.

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The highlights:

  • Next week Venezuelans observe the first anniversary of the death of the man who dominated their politics for more than a decade, Hugo Chavez. The anniversary comes amidst growing popular unrest. Protests that began with a few students in western Venezuela have spread across the country and drawn in many other groups. The unrest is driven in good part by Venezuela’s economic woes: its economic growth rate has slowed sharply despite the country’s oil riches, the inflation rate has surpassed 50 percent, and food and basic necessities are in short supply. Add in extensive corruption, an appallingly high rate of violent crime, and widespread doubts about where President Nicolas Maduro is taking the country and it’s not surprising that many Venezuelans are unhappy. Maduro’s main response so far to the public’s unhappiness has been to arrest opposition leaders, blame the United States for meddling in Venezuela’s affairs, and declare a six-day national holiday in the run-up to Carnaval.
  • Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with President Obama in Washington on Monday. The two will have much to talk about, with Iran’s nuclear program, the Middle East peace process, and Syria being the most obvious topics. Netanyahu will speak on Tuesday to the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which has been pressing the White House and Congress to impose tough, new sanctions on Iran. The White House has been resisting those calls, and Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew will be making the administration’s case at the AIPAC conference. Given the oft-reported personal and policy differences between Netanyahu and Obama, Middle East hands will watching closely to see if any of those disagreements spill out into public view.
  • President Obama officially unveils his proposed budget for FY2015 on Tuesday. In keeping with Washington tradition, the plan’s main features have already been leaked to the media: a 1 percent for federal civilian workers and military personnel; $56 billion in new spending to create manufacturing jobs and fund college training and early childhood education programs; a reduction of the size of the Army to its smallest since just before World War II, and abandonment of the GOP-supported proposal to change how to calculate cost-of-living increases for Social Security. The odds that Congress will enact the budget plan as is are somewhere between nil and none. Look for the FY15 budget to be settled by Washington’s favorite budgeting technique, the continuing resolution.
  • Bob’s Figure of the Week is Joaquín Guzmán Loera. My Figure of the Week is 63 percent. Our audience-nominated Figures of the Week come from TWNW listeners Anthony Reid (‏@DonnyLebowski), who offered up Viktor Yanukovych, Manuel Mahler-Hutter (‏@mahlerhutter), who nominated “those that took over control in Kyiv this week,” and ngo24.com (‏@ngo24com), who proposed “Sikorski, Steinmeier and Fabius.” As always, you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out why.

For more on the topics we discussed in the podcast check out:

Venezuela: CFR.org provides an interactive timeline of Chavez’s rise to power and his influence on Venezuala. CNN outlines the divisions between government supporters and opposition forces. Time argues that protesters are unlikely to achieve regime change in Venezuela. The Washington Post writes that “Carnaval could sap Venezuela’s protests.”

Netanyahu: The Wall Street Journal discusses President Obama’s “Mideast diplomatic push.”  USA Today previews the discussion between Netanyahu and Obama. Reuters reports that Netanyahu will want to focus on Iran. The Jerusalem Post predicts that Obama is unlikely to unveil a peace framework during the meeting next week.

U.S. Budget: The Washington Post writes that many federal workers are optimistic about the budget. Bloomberg reports that the new budget proposes a 1 percent pay raise for federal workers. The Los Angeles Times reports that President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner met one-on-one to discuss the budget and other issues. The New York Times reports that Obama’s budget omits a plan to cut Social Security cost-of-living increases.

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