January 6th, 2021, will go down in history as a day of infamy. Although Trump supporters’ storming of the US Capitol doesn’t make its first appearance until a few dozen pages into How to Stop Fascism, author Paul Mason flags it as a “potentially historic turning point”. It is proof positive that leading liberal democracies are set for a fascist turn.
Correctly, Mason draws a sharp distinction between the populist far right and overt fascists. Trump is presented not as a fascist himself, but rather as an enabler, a “useful idiot”. Indeed, explicitly fascist parties are thin on the ground. Greece’s now-outlawed Golden Dawn is a notable exception, although fascist revivalism has been making its mark in both Italy and Spain of late.
*** A version of this book review was first published in The Irish Times on 29 August 2021 ***
At a time of heightened global trade tensions and faltering multilateralism, the accord sends a powerful message that mutually beneficial economic openness is still worth striving for. The 2015 election of market-oriented Mauricio Macri as President of Argentina in 2015 gave some impetus to the discussions from 2016 onwards, while the rightward shift in Brazil, with the 2018 election of Jair Bolsonaro to the Presidency, further catalysed the conclusion of an agreement.
Click here for full analysis, published by Mosoj Global Services.
Reductionists have characterized the agreement as a ‘cows for cars’ deal, with European auto exporters gaining access to previously high-tariff Mercosur markets while the agriculture sectors of Brazil and Argentina, in particular, gaining limited tariff-free access to the similarly-protected and subsidized European market for farm produce.
Overall, the Mexican peso has had a relatively good year in 2017, set to close a shade under 20 to the US dollar at end-December (19.72 at time of writing), having opened at the year at 20.74. This would make for a gain of about 5% for the year.
At the beginning of the year, the peso was still reeling from the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the U.S. on a platform hostile to imports of goods and people from Mexico. There was concern that he may follow through on threats to unilaterally withdraw from NAFTA, tax remittances and build a big border wall, among other measures. It was in the latter stages of a rout which would see the peso climb from a shade under 18 to the dollar in mid-August 2016 to an all-time high of nearly 22 in the third week of January 2017.
A strong nine-month run would see the peso more than retrace this move as the worst fears of a Trump Presidency appeared to have been unfounded, with the Mexican currency dipping back below 18 to the dollar during the summer months.
Venezuela is in crisis, sliding further towards collapse.
Opposition protests sparked by attempts by the Supreme Court, stacked with loyalists to President Nicolás Maduro, to usurp the legislative powers of Congress have already seen dozens killed.
Perhaps inconveniently for the government, the President’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) had lost their Congressional majority in the 2015 elections for the first time since Hugo Chávez was swept into power by a democratic landslide in 1999. Shortly after Chávez’ first became President, he set about re-writing Venezuela’s constitution, giving more powers to the Presidency and laying the foundations for his Bolivarian revolution – Socialism for the 21st Century, as he called it.
This piece of history is important, given that President Maduro last week pledged to reconvene another constituent assembly to re-write the constitution once again. This is seen by many as a thinly-veiled attempt to delay the regional elections scheduled later this year, and the Presidential election scheduled for 2018.
*** This article was first published on thejournal.ie on 12 May, 2017 ***
“May you live in interesting times” is a Chinese curse that seems apt to describe Mexico at its current political juncture. Times are certainly interesting. With the election of Donald Trump in the U.S., much focus in recent months has been outward-looking. Indeed, political risk in the diplomatic sphere is perhaps higher than at any time in living memory.
Domestically, the current administration is on the cusp of its final year in office, and the lame-duck status that goes with it. The pre-campaign to elect a new President in 2018 is well under way, with a very real possibility that Mexico will elect its first ever leftist President. At the same time, recent high-profile incarcerations of former high-level government officials and narco-traffickers has shone a spotlight on corruption and organised crime like never before.
With imminent – and important – state-level domestic elections in June 2017, seen by many as a prelude to the Presidential elections taking place in July 2018, the scope for political and policy change in Mexico over the period to late-2018 is significant. In light of the single term limit on the Mexican Presidency, the incumbent, Enrique Peña Nieto, will give way to his successor on December 1st, 2018. Opinion polls suggest a three-way fight between Peña Nieto’s PRI, the opposition PAN – which held the Presidency from 2000 to 2012 – and Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), at the head of Morena, the movement he left the PRD – traditionally Mexico’s 3rd party, and for whom AMLO twice contested the Presidency – to form.
This blog is two years old this week.
In 2013, two of the top three most popular posts in terms of hits were also in the top three for 2012, reflecting enduring interest in reading the tea leaves of Mexican politics during President Peña Nieto’s first, reform-heavy year in power (Mexico: A Political Risk Assessment; 2013 rank: 1; 2012 rank: 3) and in tracking the rise and fall of Ireland’s economy (The Boom Bust Life Cycle of Ireland’s Balance of Payments and Net Foreign Assets; 2013 rank: 2; 2012 rank: 2).
Third was an ‘Econ 101’ post breaking down the components of Irish GDP. Fourth was a post looking at Ireland’s Top 1%, and their income share which has been trending upwards since the mid-1980s. Rounding out the top five was a look at the psychology of taxation in the context of budget consolidation in Ireland.
Today marks the 75th anniversary of the nationalization of Mexico’s oil industry, exactly one week after President Enrique Peña Nieto celebrated his first 100 days in power.
Mexican Presidents are elected for a single six year term, taking office in December. In modern times, regime change has been associated with economic and political upheaval.
Felipe Calderon’s razor thin victory in 2006 gave rise lengthy street protests and an aggressive militarization of government anti-drugs efforts driven, at least in part, by the newly-elected President’s attempt to assert his authority and establish legitimacy. Continue reading
In 2013, Côte d’Ivoire will be aiming to go one better than in 2012 across two fronts. The national football team will try to improve on last year’s runners-up spot in the African Cup of Nations, while the Ivorian authorities are targeting an increase in real GDP growth from 8.6% to 9%.
Having contracted by -4.7% in 2011 on foot of the post-electoral political crisis that saw 3,000 people killed, real GDP rebounded strongly in 2012. Whether this represents a one-time recovery of lost ground or is indicative of higher trend growth remains to be seen. The Ivoirian authorities are aiming for double-digit growth rates from 2014 in a bid to position the country as an emerging market by 2020. Although slightly less bullish, the IMF expects a still impressive average growth rate of 7.5% over the 2013-2015 period. Continue reading
Here is the final paper for my course in ‘Managing Political Risk’ at Columbia with Ian Bremmer, Preston Keat & Ross Schapp. I enjoyed learning from the best!
1. Enrique Peña Nieto is long odds-on favourite to be elected President on July 1st, the first time PRI will hold the Presidency since losing it in 1997 after 71 years of unbroken rule.
2. Current polling suggests the PRI-PVEM alliance will comfortably secure a Congressional majority, raising the prospect of unified government for the first time since 1997 (NB: this did not subsequently come to pass; November 2012).
3. Unlike at past Presidential elections, no significant political or economic instability is anticipated to ensue, chiefly because Mexico’s macro fundamentals are now far stronger. Continue reading