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Daily Brief: Russia Offers Relief to Debt-Strapped Venezuela


Council on Foreign Relations Newsletter If you are unable to see the message below, click here to view. November 16, 2017 Daily News Brief   TOP OF THE AGENDA Russia Offers Relief to Debt-Strapped Venezuela Russia has agreed to restructure $3.2 billion of Venezuela's debt (FT), opening the door for the South American country to potentially meet its obligations to other foreign creditors. China, also a major creditor to Venezuela, said Thursday it believes the country has the ability to "properly handle" its debt issue (Reuters). The votes of confidence from Beijing and Moscow come after two ratings agencies declared Caracas in default on Monday on payments for some of its international bonds. Venezuela, in the midst of a severe economic and humanitarian crisis, is estimated to owe $140 billion (BBC) to foreign creditors. ANALYSIS "Both Russia, which is a member of the Paris Club of international creditors, and China, which is not, are emerging as alternate venues for embattled countries seeking to avoid debt restructuring managed by traditional economic powers like the U.S. and Western Europe," Henry Foy, John Paul Rathbone, and Kate Allen write for the Financial Times. "Given that sanctions introduced by the Trump administration ban U.S. investors from buying newly issued Venezuelan bonds, the chance of a voluntary debt swap operation—which would allow investors to swap near-term debt for debt that matures later on—seems highly unlikely," Antonio Maria Delgado writes for the Miami Herald. "[Caracas has] been cutting back on importing food, on importing medicine. People are starving. There's this whole other problem there, which is a humanitarian problem," CFR's Shannon K. O'Neil said in an interview with Bloomberg. This CFR Backgrounder looks at Venezuela's humanitarian crisis.  PACIFIC RIM Cambodian Court Dissolves Opposition Party The Supreme Court has ruled to dissolve Cambodia's National Rescue Party, banning 118 of its officials (Phnom Penh Post) from politics for five years and ousting hundreds of its lawmakers. Prime Minister Hun Sen has accused the opposition of working with the United States (Al Jazeera). CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick discusses the democratic decline in Southeast Asia. MYANMAR: National security forces carried out gang rapes of Rohingya women and girls (NYT) in recent attacks on villages in Rakhine State, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch. CFR's Jamille Bigio discusses sexual violence against the Rohingya. SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA Opium Production Spikes in Afghanistan Opium production in Afghanistan spiked 87 percent in 2017 (RFE/RL) compared to the previous year, according to the country's counternarcotics ministry and the United Nations, which called the nine thousand tons produced a record. This CFR Backgrounder looks at global heroin flows. SRI LANKA: Government officials told the United Nations on Wednesday that they will take new steps to prevent torture by security forces (AP) following a report that at least fifty Sri Lankan men seeking asylum in Europe showed sign of beatings, rape, and brandings.  MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA Former Lebanese PM Accepts Invitation to France Saad Hariri, who announced a surprise resignation earlier this month (France 24) while in Saudi Arabia, has accepted an invitation to France from President Emmanuel Macron. Hariri said he believed there was a plot against his life when he resigned. IRAN: The United Kingdom reportedly plans to transfer $527 million (Telegraph) it owes to Iran for an arms deal during the 1970s as it seeks the release of a British charity worker jailed there since last year (RFE/RL).  SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA Regional Leaders to Hold Zimbabwe Crisis Talks Members of southern Africa's regional bloc will convene in Botswana (FT) on Thursday after Zimbabwe's armed forces seized control of government offices and confined President Robert Mugabe to his home. The regional leaders have called on the military to avoid an "unconstitutional" transfer of power. CFR's John Campbell discusses the struggle between two factions in Zimbabwe's ruling party. ANGOLA: Isabel dos Santos, daughter of former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and Africa's richest woman, was dismissed by President Joao Lourenco (BBC) as the head of Angola's state oil company.  EUROPE Russia Moves to Designate Outside Media as 'Foreign Agents' The lower house of parliament unanimously passed a measure that would permit authorities to designate foreign media outlets (RFE/RL) as "foreign agents." The move comes after the U.S. Justice Department ordered two Russian media outlets (DW) operating in the United States to register as foreign agents. EU: The labor market has improved (DW) in twenty-six of the European Union's twenty-eight states this year, according to the latest social justice index from the Germany-based Bertelsmann Foundation. Denmark, Sweden, and Finland ranked in the top three. AMERICAS After Two Decades, Haiti to Revive Military Haiti will formally unveil on Saturday a reconstituted national army, which will start with 150 recruits but could reach as many as five thousand. The country disbanded its army (VOA) in 1995 following a series of bloody coups.  UNITED STATES Judge Blocks Punitive Measures Against Sanctuary City A federal judge ruled on Wednesday in favor of the city of Philadelphia, which challenged the Justice Department's withholding of federal grant funds for public safety equipment over the city's declaration it would limit cooperation with federal immigration enforcement (VOA). Nicholas J. Rasmussen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center and one of the few U.S. officials who have continuously worked in counterterrorism positions (NYT) since the 9/11 attacks, will step down next month.         Council on Foreign Relations — 58 East 68th Street — New York, NY 10065 CFR does not share email addresses with third parties. 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Date: November 16, 2017 at 10:52PM