The Week Ahead: 15 – 21 April 2018

The Week Ahead: 15 – 21 April 2018

Cuban Assembly selects Raul Castro’s successor. Paraguay votes for president. Tensions in Syria escalate. IMF-World Bank meetings take place. All in The Week Ahead. 

CUBA: Assembly selects Raul Castro’s successor  

  • On Thursday, Cuba’s recently elected National Assembly will vote on to select Cuba’s next president, following the conclusion of Raul Castro’s term and a formal end to Castro rule over Cuba for the first time since 1959. The newly elected assembly is likely to select current vice president Miguel Diaz-Canel, and his perspectives have been carefully analyzed by the United States, Cuban dissidents, and other nations with a material interest in Cuba’s future and its geopolitical position will be carefully exploring both Diaz-Canel and his interactions with the Assembly. Diaz-Canel has previously been noted as maintaining a more moderate disposition when compared to the more hardline communists that marked the Fidel Castro regime.
  • Evidence suggests that Diaz-Canel maintains many of the older positions held in Cubaresistance to dissidents, aversion to the media, and skepticism over the United States and Europe. Questions over the slight opening of Cuba’s environment to travel under Raul will likely continue until the next president establishes both his reputation as well as his relations with the Assembly, the armed forces, and the security services.

GRI Take: The notion that the end of a Castro ruling Cuba reflects a broader fundamental shift in Cuba’s direction is premature and may be inaccurate until the next president shows the path he intends to pursue.

PARAGUAY: Presidential elections take place

  • This Sunday, Paraguayan citizens will head to the polls to select their next president, as well as hold votes for both houses of the national legislature. Contesting the presidency, the two main candidates, Mario Abdo Benitez and Efrain Alegre, hold very different political views, and would likely take the country in different directions.
  • Mario Benitez, current president of the Senate and nominee for the Colorado Party, is likely to emerge victorious and in many respects is expected to continue the more market-friendly path of the current president Horacio Cortes. However, his ties with the Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner (his father was one of Stroessner’s closest confidants and there are unresolved questions over the sources of the Benitez family’s wealth) have led to questions in the Paraguayan press and may affect his likelihood of victory as well as the political ties he is able to forge post-election.
  • Benitez’s victory in the primary was a rebuke to Cortes, with the Cortes’ moves to allow himself the ability to run for reelection leading to a schism in the party and Benitez leading the charge in the Senate against Cortes being granted the ability to run again. Given his success over Cortes’ hand-picked successor, he may feel greater freedom to pursue a different path for the Colorado Party, though this freedom may be balanced with the difficulty of keeping Cortes allies in his corner.

GRI Take: The Colorado Party has led the landlocked South American nation almost continuously for over 70 years, and with the legislature likely to go to the Colorado Party, Benitez may have more wiggle room than other candidates in the region who have broken slightly with their party to burnish their independent credentials to voters.

SYRIA: Airstrikes could continue despite Trump withdrawal plans 

  • Last Saturday, the United States, United Kingdom, and France launched airstrikes on Syria, with a particular focus on a chemical compound facility in Damascus. While this does represent an escalation in response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons against rebel forces, it appears both sides had anticipated a more protracted response and are currently toning down their rhetoric.
  • The previous spectrum of response: from symbolic strikes to a full-blown destruction of all of Syria’s chemical weapons, the Damascus attack appears to have been relatively measured. The rhetoric from the UN Security Council was heated, with a failed vote to condemn the attack was only supported by Bolivia, China and Russia. The United States, France, and the UK defended their attack and condemned the actions of Assad, and the support of the Russian government for the Assad regime.
  • The United States has given very mixed signals of its intentions, and the international community has watched President Trump’s twitter account bounce from one extreme (withdrawal, potentially within 48 hours) to another.

GRI Take:  As the US coalition strategy comes more into focus, both allies and opponents of the Assad regime may move quickly to respond to a potentially substantial change. With John Bolton as a top security advisor, the administration may move in a more aggressive position, aggravating Russia, China, and Syria.

GLOBAL: IMF-World Bank joint meetings detail global macroeconomic development

  • Throughout the week, leaders from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, as well as economists and development experts, will gather in Washington, DC for the joint spring meeting between the two organizations. Both Christine Lagarde and Jim Yong Kim, the heads of the IMF and World Bank, respectively, are expected to deliver public remarks and open themselves to questions from the world press.

GRI Take:  Likely at the top of the list for concerns from both organizations, but particularly the IMF, are increasing signals that China and the United States may embark on ever-escalating trade disputes which could hamper global growth. Lagarde has mentioned this issue repeatedly and is likely to do so again, and issues of income inequality could also make an appearance. Another potential issue of interest, particularly in Europe and the United States could be the growing role of technology in international trade and development, and what rules of the road might be necessary in balancing the interests of consumers, businesses, and governments.


Stay ahead of the news cycle with GRI. Drawing on expert knowledge and local sources, The Week Ahead provides analytical foresight on the consequences of key upcoming political developments.

This edition of The Week Ahead was produced by GRI Senior Analyst Brian Daigle and Senior Editor Luke Iott.

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