Democratic presidential frontrunner says Venezuelan government doing ‘all it can to rig’ parliamentary elections

The Venezuelan government must respect the outcome of parliamentary elections scheduled for Dec. 6, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at the Atlantic Council on Nov. 30.

“As the people of Venezuela go the ballot box this weekend, it is really up to all of us in this hemisphere to ensure their will is respected, and that responsibility begins with the Maduro administration,” Clinton said, “which to date has been doing all it can to rig these elections.”

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s term doesn’t expire until 2019, but he could face a recall if the opposition takes control of parliament. Most polls show Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela losing seats in parliament in an election that will lack credible monitors. The Carter Center, which has monitored elections in Venezuela in the past, shut down its offices in Caracas over the summer.

The elections are taking place amid a government crackdown on political opponents that has sharpened political tensions, and just days after the assassination of opposition politician Luis Manuel Diaz. Clinton expressed outrage at Diaz’s “cold-blooded assassination.”

“Our voices need to be raised on behalf of the people of Venezuela,” Clinton said, “and voices across the region have started to speak up for democratic values, but we need much more.”

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Former State Department official, R. Nicholas Burns, says United States needs to do more to help Syrian war refugees

Americans need to repudiate the “deeply offensive” anti-migrant rhetoric coming from Republican presidential frontrunners Donald Trump and Ben Carson that runs contrary to the founding principles of the United States of America, said R. Nicholas Burns, a former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.

Carson has compared migrants fleeing the war in Syria to dogs; Trump would support establishing a database to track Muslim Americans; Jeb Bush would prefer it if the United States took in Christian migrants; and Ted Cruz is adamant that the United States should only accept Christian migrants. Republican Governors, meanwhile, have said they will refuse to let any Syrian migrants into their states.

“I think Donald Trump and Ben Carson, in particular, have made statements that go beyond the pale and that should be rejected by the American people,” said Burns, who is the Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

The candidates’ rhetoric is part of an alarming anti-migrant backlash that has followed the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris. One of the attackers had reportedly used a route frequented by Syrian migrants.

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Editor's Note: This piece is adapted from a speech Dr. Christoph Bergner, a member of Germany's Bundestag, gave at the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Foundation on October 21, 2015.

I would like to thank the organizers of this event for making human rights issues in Crimea the main topic. Even if other news is currently making headlines, we must not lose sight of the circumstances on the peninsula and the consequences of Russia's unlawful seizure. In assessing the situation, the European Union and United States must take into account not only international law but also human rights concerns.

Several human rights issues currently occurring in Crimea have already been raised at this event, including restriction of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, pressure to become Russian citizens, repressive measures against Crimean Tatars, repressive measures against certain religious groups, and the legitimization and instrumentalization of paramilitary thugs.

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The downing of a Russian warplane by Turkey could derail the grand coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) that French President François Hollande is trying to put together by visiting Washington and Moscow, and getting Beijing on board.

The escalation of tensions between Russia and Turkey — historic rivals around the Balkans, the Black Sea, and the Caucasus — is not in Western interests, and should be defused before it careens out of control. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, should meet on the sidelines of the Paris COP21 climate change summit and set up protocols to prevent incidents such as the jet shoot-down from occurring in the future.

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Two years ago, popular protests erupted against Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych on Kyiv's Maidan. Since then, Ukraine's economy has deteriorated sharply, with a contraction of 18 percent in two years, but the Poroshenko Bloc was the biggest party by far in the October 25 local elections. One might say that the Ukrainian nation has been forged in defense against Russian aggression, and many reforms have been carried out.

Yanukovych fell on February 21, 2014, and the May 25 presidential election of that year was the first step toward reforms. Yet only two important reform laws were adopted in 2014: the law on reform of higher education, which is being successfully implemented, and the law on lustration, which has largely been stalled.

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The downing of a Russian SU-24 fighter jet by Turkey after it violated Turkish airspace and ignored ten warnings exemplifies the danger of Russian military support for Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad. But it will also complicate French President François Hollande’s quest to include Moscow in a unified coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

Hollande, who has taken on the mantle of a wartime leader following the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, met US President Barack Obama at the White House on Nov. 24 in a diplomatic effort aimed at building an all-inclusive coalition. He will also meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin this week.

Hollande has said he will urge Russia to focus its attention on fighting ISIS instead of propping up the Assad regime. But at least one member of the US-led coalition will resist a Russian role in the grouping.

“On the Turkish side, there is no appetite for greater coalition-Russian cooperation vis-a-vis the Islamic State inside Syria,” said Aaron Stein, Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

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In the wake of recent terror attacks in Paris, President François Hollande has called for Russian and American cooperation against ISIS, joining many other policymakers who have voiced the need for cooperation between Russian and American intelligence agencies against Islamic terrorism. Indeed, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged his generals to treat French forces as "allies." On November 20, Russia was uncharacteristically helpful, backing France's UN Security Council resolution, which urges countries to take "all necessary measures" against ISIS. The Russian defense ministry posted a video showing Russian pilots writing "For Paris" on bombs intended for Syria.

But before any such cooperation becomes a reality, it is important to think seriously about whether it is merited. And once we examine Russia's actual record concerning terrorism, the basis for such cooperation evaporates.

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The shoot-down by Turkish fighters of a Russian warplane in Turkish airspace is an event of major significance in Syria, Ukraine, and beyond. 

The savage attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Paris on Nov. 13 has prompted French President François Hollande to seek a grand coalition with the United States and Russia against ISIS. The downing of the Russian jet, in or (if one accepts the Kremlin version) near Turkish airspace and over Syrian territory without any ISIS presence is a reminder that Moscow’s military effort in Syria has been devoted principally to 1) attacking opposition groups backed by the West, and 2) embarrassing NATO (with at least two prior incursions into Turkish airspace acknowledged by Moscow). 

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As cities finished counting the votes from Ukraine's second round of mayoral elections, Mariupol and Krasnoarmiisk in the Donetsk region still haven't held elections. Mariupol, which over the last nineteen months has been a strategic target of pro-Russian separatists, has become a political battleground. Local elections that were supposed to take place on October 25 were canceled, officially because of "the improper preparation of election ballots, the absence of control over their printing and number, and lack of reliable storage." However, the events that led to their cancellation appear to be more political than procedural. Mariupol volunteers and activists blocked possible election fraud by the Opposition Bloc—a party born from the ashes of former President Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions. Continuing manipulation and the recent escalation in violence threaten to again disrupt the elections scheduled for November 29.

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The Atlantic Council’s Peter Schechter discusses the implications of Argentina’s presidential election

Mauricio Macri, the conservative Mayor of Buenos Aires, ended more than a decade of Peronist party rule in Argentina when he defeated Daniel Scioli in a hard-fought runoff election on Nov. 23.

Macri has promised to roll back President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s economic policies that have shut Argentina out of international credit markets and undermined its economic security.

His victory also presents an opportunity to mend ties between Buenos Aires and Washington that have grown frosty on Fernández de Kirchner’s watch.

Peter Schechter, Director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, discusses the implications of Macri’s election victory in an interview with the New Atlanticist’s Ashish Kumar Sen. Here are excerpts from our interview:

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