World View: Brazil Urges Quick Venezuelan Election if Chávez Dies

This morning's key headlines from
  • Brazil urges quick Venezuelan election of Chávez dies
  • Al-Qaeda rebels in Mali counterattack as France bombs
  • Germany and Britain debate whether to join France in Mali
  • Germany threatens to block a bailout of Cyprus, reviving euro crisis

Brazil urges quick Venezuelan election if Chávez dies

Brazil is making a major intervention in Venezuela's government by urging the country to hold elections as quickly as possible if president Hugo Chávez dies: "We are explicitly saying that if Chávez dies, we would like to see elections as soon as possible. We think that's the best way to ensure a peaceful democratic transition, which is Brazil's main desire."

Chávez has been in Cuba since his fourth cancer surgery on December 11. After previous surgeries, Chávez was shown sitting up or chatting with Fidel Castro. This time, there has been no public sign of Chávez since the operation, leading to speculation that he's close to death. 

Brazil is keeping the United States apprised of its efforts, and is hoping to convince Washington to allow it to take the lead in managing a potential leadership transition in Venezuela. Brazilian officials said they fear that any direct U.S. intervention in Venezuelan affairs could backfire. However, a quick election would contradict Chávez's own stated wishes that, on his death, vice-president Nicolas Maduro become president. The Venezuelan opposition fears that Chávez's party will violate the constitution to stay in power if Chávez dies. Reuters

Photo: Chávez Candanga

Al-Qaeda rebels in Mali counterattack as France bombs

On Saturday, France's foreign minister Laurent Fabius said, "Stopping the terrorists -- it's done." On Sunday, France announced that the military operation would be finished in a matter of weeks. On Monday, Islamist militants counter-attacked and gained control of the town of Diabaly from government forces, just 220 miles from Bamako, Mali's capital. The militants are part of a terrorist group linked to Al-Qaeda on the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). 

According to an AQIM spokesman: "France has opened the gates of hell for all the French. She has fallen into a trap which is much more dangerous than Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia."

AQIM is flush with resources. They made millions of dollars in the last few years collecting ransom payments for kidnapped hostages. And they collected a huge bonanza of sophisticated weapons from unprotected warehouses following the collapse of the Muammar Gaddafi regime in Libya. 

France is continuing its bombing mission, and plans to deploy 2,500 troops, to work with a force of 3,300 West African troops to defeat well-armed militants in an area the size of Spain. This is already an increase over the initial announcement, because resistance has been tougher than expected. Many analysts believe that the estimate of "a few weeks" is too optimistic. Reuters

Germany and Britain debate whether to join France in Mali

Germany's government does not want to deploy German combat troops in Mali, but they're considering offering logistical, medical and humanitarian support. Germany was embarrassed in 2011 because they never supported France in the military operation in Libya, and they do not want to face that kind of criticism again. However, caution is advised for two reasons: 

  • Once a nation offers logistical help, it could quickly be asked to get more involved, and Germany might be drawn into very lengthy conflict.
  • By assisting France, Germany would in effect be taking part in an attack against radical Islamists with close ties to al-Qaeda who are already threatening revenge attacks against Paris.

Defense chiefs in Britain are warning prime minister David Cameron against becoming enmeshed in the Mali mission, pointing out that any action could be drawn-out and require significantly greater resources than have so far been deployed.Spiegel and Independent (London)

Germany threatens to block a bailout of Cyprus, reviving euro crisis

Cyprus needs $22.7 billion to bail out its banking system, and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel is demanding harsh reforms before it can be approved. The problem is that Cyprus's banks have been accused as vehicles for laundering billions of dollars by Russian oligarchs who don't want to pay Russia's taxes. Thus, bailing out Cyprus's banks would be bailing out Russia's oligarchs. Many MPs in Germany's Bundestag are refusing to consider a bailout. Without a bailout, the euro crisis will return in full force. Guardian (London) and Spiegel

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