"Venezuela wants peace" | Photo: Flickr, Wilfredor | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The EU, Venezuela, and democracy promotion: A rejoinder to Elliott Abrams’ comments

In his blog post “The EU and Venezuela: More Bad Advice”, published on the website of the Council on Foreign Relations, Elliott Abrams critically reviews my thoughts on “A New Framework for Dealing with Venezuela: From Democracy to Conflict Resolution”. In this piece, I argued that the EU should shift from what I call the “democracy framework” to a “framework of peace mediation and conflict resolution”. Abrams’ comments give me the opportunity to clarify some issues and tease out key differences between his approach and the one I am arguing for.

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Plenary session of the European Parliament on the situation in Venezuela, January 2019. | CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2019 – Source: EP

A New Framework for Dealing with Venezuela: From Democracy to Conflict Resolution

Venezuela is mired in a prolonged, multifaceted crisis, to which no solutions are in sight. In the wake of the country’s December 2020 parliamentary election, the EU needs to rethink some of the basic premises of its policy toward Venezuela. Instead of quarreling about which domestic actors and political institutions should be recognized as democratic, the EU should approach the country through a lens of conflict resolution. While a democracy-based framework divides the EU and a broad range of other external actors, a framework focused on conflict resolution may increase the chances of a more coordinated international response. That approach may be more likely to lead—eventually and indirectly—to some kind of inclusive political settlement in Venezuela.

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"La Marcha Más Grande de Chile" took place during the 2019 protest movement in Chile. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Natalia Reyes Escobar | CC BY-SA 4.0

One Year Later: The Legacy of Latin America’s 2019 Mass Protests

Between October and December 2019, mass protests swept Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador. A year later, the legacies of these episodes of contention look very different. While in Chile protests enforced the initiation of a constitutional reform process that continues on track, recent elections in Bolivia reversed last year’s political about-face. In Ecuador and Colombia, the 2019 mass protests did not initiate comparable policy changes to begin with – but this doesn’t mean they had no lasting effects.

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"They kill us on and on" - more than 8000 indigenous people from the Cauca region protest against the escalating violence in Bogotá on 19.10.2020 | Photo: Picture Alliance/AA
Bogotá, October 19, 2020: More than 8,000 indigenous people protest in the capital. “They keep killing us“ is the slogan on the poster held by two indigenous Colombians from the Cauca region 600 kilometers away. In Cauca, especially representatives of the indigenous population are victims of the escalating violence. | Photo: Picture Alliance/AA

The Political Logic of Violence. The Assassination of Social Leaders in the Context of Authoritarian Local Orders in Colombia

Ever since the conclusion of the peace deal between the Colombian government and FARC guerrilla in late 2016, the number of social leaders murdered has risen sharply – something that even the latest developments surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic have had little bearing on. These acts of violence are frequently attributed to the presence of armed non-state actors and their fight for control over illegal economies. And yet, the situation has an unmistakably political side to it, reflecting the very modus operandi of local authoritarian orders in Colombia. For counterstrategies to be developed, it is crucial to acknowledge the political logic behind the violence.

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„Sie töten uns weiter und weiter" - mehr als 8000 Indigene aus der Region Cauca protestieren am 19.10.2020 in Bogotá gegen die eskalierende Gewalt. Foto: Picture Alliance/AA

Die politische Logik der Gewalt. Zur Ermordung sozialer Aktivist*innen im Kontext autoritärer lokaler Ordnungen in Kolumbien

Seit dem Abschluss des Friedensabkommens zwischen der kolumbianischen Regierung und der FARC-Guerrilla Ende 2016 sind die Morde an sozialen Aktivist*innen deutlich angestiegen. Daran hat sich auch unter den Bedingungen der COVID-19-Pandemie nichts geändert. Häufig wird diese Gewalt allein auf die Präsenz bewaffneter, nichtstaatlicher Akteure und deren Kampf um die Kontrolle illegaler Ökonomien zurückgeführt. Sie hat aber zugleich eine dezidiert politische Seite und spiegelt konkret die Funktionsweise lokaler autoritärer Ordnungen in Kolumbien. Diese politische Logik anzuerkennen, ist wichtig, um Gegenstrategien zu entwickeln.

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The empty Piazza San Marco in Venice | Photo: Kaveman743 | CC BY-NC 2.0
The empty Piazza San Marco in Venice | Photo: Kaveman743 | CC BY-NC 2.0

COVID-19 as a Threat to Civic Spaces Around the World

As countries across the globe are desperately trying to control the COVID-19 pandemic, a rapidly increasing number of governments have started to impose severe restrictions on core civic freedoms. Although restrictions are currently necessary to save lives and protect health care from overburdening, these emergency measures must be proportional and strictly limited in time. It is crucial to monitor how restrictions are implemented to prevent governments from using the current crisis to justify new constraints on civic spaces, which have already have been shrinking in many places during the last 15 years.

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Thousands gathered in Santiago, Chile, to protest for urgent changes in Sebastian Pinera's government | Photo: picture alliance / NurPhoto

The Current Wave of Protests in Latin America and the MENA – A Struggle for Incorporation?

During the last months, we witnessed massive protests around the globe against authoritarian rule, social injustice and climate change. Looking more closely at the ongoing wave of contention, we find two regional hotbeds for socioeconomic protests, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Latin America. In countries as different as Lebanon and Iraq, Chile and Ecuador, public contention was primarily driven by socioeconomic grievances. In a project concluded earlier this year, we compared socioeconomic protests in both regions and found striking similarities in spite of very different contexts. Studying the evolution of socioeconomic contention in Egypt and Tunisia since the 2011 revolutions against the background of Latin American experiences, we found that there are surprising similarities in the patterns of contentious politics which can be explained when we consider them as an expression of a fundamental crisis of popular-sector incorporation.

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Karnevalsvereine sind weiter gemeinnützig, Menschenrechtsorganisationen aber nicht?
Karnevalsvereine sind weiter gemeinnützig, Menschenrechtsorganisationen aber nicht? | Foto: @infozentrale | CC0 1.0

Gemeinnützigkeit in Deutschland: Karneval und Religion ja, Politik und Menschenrechte nein

In einem Aufsehen erregenden Urteil hat der Bundesfinanzhof die Entscheidung des Hessischen Finanzgerichts verworfen, das den Trägerverein des globalisierungskritischen Netzwerks Attac als gemeinnützig eingestuft hatte. Die Entscheidung hat weit über den Einzelfall hinaus Brisanz, insofern sie dem politischen Engagement zivilgesellschaftlicher Organisationen klare Grenzen setzt. Ein Kommentar.

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A man carrying a flag on his way to a pro government protest in Cairo on 25 January 2014 | Photo: Sebastian Horndasch | CC BY 2.0

We Need to Understand Why States Object to the Presence of Foreign-funded NGOs

More and more countries restrict how NGOs operate, often by limiting their funding. The response is frequently to argue that these restrictions flout international law or amount to crackdowns on the opposition. Annika Elena Poppe and Jonas Wolff argue that the objections to NGO activity need to be taken seriously. In Egypt, for example, they are rooted in concerns about sovereignty and foreign interference.

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