How the energy crisis has strengthened President Maduro
Plus: Vanuatu is still offline after a month, Malaysia’s new Prime Minister is no fan of Mercedes, and why China’s pleased with Taiwan’s local election results.
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Today’s briefing is a ~4.7 min read:
- 🇻🇪 Coming in from the cold? How the energy crisis has strengthened President Maduro.
- ➕ Plus: Vanuatu’s government is still offline, Malaysia’s new Prime Minister hates his Mercedes, and why China is pleased with Taiwan’s local election results.
📰 GLOBAL HEADLINES
🤿 DEEP DIVE
Dealing with Maduro: the lesser of a whole bunch of ‘evils’
- The Biden Administration has given US oil company Chevron the go-ahead to resume production activity in Venezuela.
- The global energy shortage is ‘persuading’ governments to partially lift sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s regime.
Drill baby, drill
Over the weekend, US President Joe Biden lifted a moratorium on sales of Venezuelan oil and granted the US energy giant Chevron a six-month license to resume production and exports.
- The decision coincides with ongoing talks between Venezuela’s government and opposition groups who jointly asked the UN last weekend to release ~$3B in frozen funds for humanitarian use.
But that’s only half the story, because the Biden Administration has been cautiously engaging with Maduro for a while now:
- In October, seven US citizens were released in exchange for Mrs Maduro’s nephews.
- US envoys have travelled to Caracas twice in recent months.
- President Maduro mingled with French President Emmanuel Macron and US climate envoy John Kerry at COP27.
The tides are turning
In just a few months, what’s changed?
1. 🛢️ The energy crisis
Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world – need we say more? Plus, the US has had little luck negotiating oil production hikes with Saudi Arabia, leading the Biden Administration with few alternatives but to re-engage with Maduro.
2. 🗳️ A new strategy
Domestic and international campaigns to unseat Maduro have gone nowhere, and several Latin American leaders are already taking steps to reengage with Venezuela.
- Western leaders might believe their best remaining option is to convince Maduro to hold freer and fairer elections in the hope he’ll lose at the ballot box.
Western leaders faced with a classic strategy problem
Imagine you’re President Biden, and you must choose two of the following three options:
- Ban Russian energy to punish Putin for his invasion of Ukraine.
- Ban Venezuelan energy to punish Maduro for holding fraudulent elections in 2018.
- Secure cheap reliable energy for your country in the near term.
Which two do you choose? President Biden’s decision (and perhaps yours?) to let Venezuela come in from the cold has attracted plenty of criticism.
But, fortunately for President Biden, the Democratic Party’s stronger-than-expected performance in the US midterm elections has given him a little wiggle room on matters of foreign policy.
🏆 The clear winner of all this… is Nicolás Maduro, who, until earlier this year, was persona non grata in every Western capital (and plenty of others as well). Given the great lols Maduro had on his recent trip to Cairo, he’ll be hoping things stay this way for a while!
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🔦 REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT
Southeast Asia & the Pacific
Malaysia’s new Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, is refusing to use a Mercedes purchased by his predecessor as his official vehicle.
- The move aligns with Anwar’s promises to review state subsidies and cut unnecessary spending.
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea
Scientists in Papua New Guinea re-encountered a pigeon species that was believed to have gone extinct in 1882.
- Scientists and conservationists are working with indigenous leaders to ensure the black-naped pheasant pigeon sticks around for the next 140 years and beyond.
The US military will rebuild a naval outpost in the Philippines’ Subic Bay 30 years after leaving the South China Sea-adjacent harbour.
- The Subic Bay outpost is one of five that the US plans to build in the Philippines to help Manila counter Chinese naval expansion.
The government of Vanuatu has now been offline for a month, following a cyber attack on 30 October.
- Australia has sent an IT team to save the day – in the meantime, government officials are using pads of paper and typewriters to communicate, which is, to three-fifths of us here at Intrigue, literally unthinkable.
Vingroup, Vietnam’s largest conglomerate, has started construction on an electric battery factory with the Chinese firm Gotion High-Tech.
- The $254M factory will produce batteries for Vingroup’s electric car company, Vinfast, which plans to start exporting its vehicles this year.
🗞 IN OTHER NEWS…
What Taiwan’s election means for cross-Strait relations
The news: Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) suffered a significant setback in Saturday’s local elections, winning only five of the island’s 22 municipalities.
- The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party, which is seen to favour closer ties with China, won 13 municipalities.
Where does that leave China? Analysts don’t believe that the results signal an interest among the electorate to get too cosy with China.
- Voters were primarily concerned with domestic issues, such as the economy and law and order, during this campaign.
If the election had come down to foreign policy, experts say the DPP would have had the upper hand.
Some analysts even think the results could help ease tensions, especially after such a dramatic summer:
Waiting for 2024: The DPP’s poor performance led Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen to resign as party leader (she was term-limited in 2024, anyway).
- In the meantime, the opposition party KMT may have found its star candidate to win back the Presidency – Chiang Wan-an, the great-grandson of Taiwan’s militant founder, Chiang Kai-shek, became the youngest person ever elected mayor of Taipei.
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