Obama

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Can a country with an inflation rate of 70 per cent and a shortage of such basic goods as milk and toilet paper really be so dangerous to the US that President Barack Obama is required to declare a national emergency in response to the extraordinary threat to national security that it poses? Apparently so. That is what happened in March and although Mr Obama has now backtracked by saying that Venezuela isn’t really a threat, the executive order has not been rescinded.

More importantly, the damage has been done. The clumsy American approach has reinforced the crumbling authority of the government of President Nicolas Maduro. The US has been designated the national enemy once again and blamed for everything that is going wrong. The Venezuela government opened 200 signing booths and collected a supposed total of 10m signatures for a statement protesting against American imperialism. The result is that the prospect of serious reform in Venezuela has been put back. Reform is much needed, not least in the beleaguered corrupted corporate structure of PDVSA, the state oil company. Read more

President Obama’s victory means that as far as America’s domestic energy business is concerned, very little changes. The real consequences flow from the impact of what is happening in America on the wider global market. But there is also the tantalising possibility of a surprise.

As Joe Lelyveld wrote before the ballot closed, the one sure winner is “dysfunction”. The results, with a divided Congress and a close popular vote, did nothing to remove the risk of gridlock in Washington. Power is so fragmented that the potential for leadership on major policy issues barely exists. Read more