The World Today for May 15, 2023

Listen to Today's Edition
Voiced by Amazon Polly


The Ephemeral Ballot


Venezuelan voters are supposed to go to the polls sometime next year to elect a new government. It’s not actually certain that a ballot will be held, however. That said, as Americas Quarterly wrote, even if an election is held, “chavismo” – or the legacy of the country’s late leader, Hugo Chavez – has severed the link between elections and democracy in the South American country.

Venezuela sits on the world’s largest proven reserves of oil. Proceeds from oil sales funded Chavez’s socialist experiment in the early 2000s. Today, however, its economy is in a shambles. Market dynamics played a role when oil prices collapsed a decade ago, noted the Council on Foreign Relations. The pandemic didn’t help, either.

But the main causes are mismanagement, corruption, and sanctions from the US and other countries because of the government’s human rights abuses and other issues, as the Congressional Research Service explained. President Nicolás Maduro, who has held office since Chavez died in 2013, has restricted Internet access, cracked down on political dissidents and prosecuted critics who question his rule. Most Venezuelans live on less than $2 a day. More than seven million have fled the country in recent years.

The US has also seized assets belonging to Citgo, the US-based Venezuelan oil company, held in American banks. Critics portrayed the seizure as “Western pillaging.”

Maduro and the opposition – led until late last year by Juan Guaidó, a former parliament speaker who declared himself acting president in 2019 – have been holding talks in Mexico to discuss a potential orderly transition of power if voters kick out Maduro in upcoming elections. Those talks have stalled, however, reported Reuters.

The opposition, meanwhile, can’t agree on the rules for a primary election where their voters could choose a candidate to challenge Maduro, added El País. Without a single primary, multiple opposition leaders might run, giving the incumbent an advantage. “The resulting vote-splitting could be catastrophic,” wrote the Spanish newspaper.

Still, Maduro might be worried. He recently launched a crackdown on corruption, reported Al Jazeera. The powerful oil minister, Tareck El Aissami, recently resigned amid allegations that he embezzled $3 billion, the equivalent of a third of the government’s annual budget. Authorities also arrested 44 others in the state oil company PDVSA. The president of the state-owned mining company, Pedro Maldonado, was also detained along with other high-profile officials.

As Global Voices wrote, Maduro orchestrated the crackdown to distance himself from the corruption that he has overseen and his allies have allegedly perpetrated.

That might be wise if he hopes to be competitive in any upcoming race, say analysts. On the other hand, he might not take any chances and just disallow any vote at all.


A Farewell To Arms


The Serbian government collected thousands of firearms this week as part of a campaign to reduce the number of weapons in the hands of civilians, following two mass shootings that rattled the Balkan nation earlier this month, the New York Times reported.

President Aleksandar Vucic said more than 9,000 illegal and legal firearms have been collected, calling the effort “a great step forward for a safer environment for our children” and “all our people.”

He did not specify what proportion of the weapons were handed over voluntarily or seized: Authorities have been raiding homes around the country to seize arms.

The announcement comes days after the government unveiled a new amnesty program that would give gun owners one month to surrender illegal weapons without penalty.

The program follows two shootings that killed 17 people, including a school shooting that killed eight children and a security guard.

Vucic proposed gun-control measures after the shootings, including a two-year moratorium on new gun licenses and enhanced surveillance of shooting ranges.

Despite the government’s efforts, tens of thousands of people protested in the capital Belgrade on Friday, blaming Vucic for fostering a divisive and hopeless atmosphere that contributed to the recent shootings, the Associated Press added.

Protesters and opposition politicians called for the president’s resignation. Vucic, meanwhile, criticized the protest as “violence in politics” and accused the opposition of exploiting the tragedy.

The Best Defense …


Thousands of people protested in Senegal’s capital against President Macky Sall’s moves toward a third term and his alleged crackdown on potential challengers for next year’s presidential elections, Africanews reported.

The demonstrations in Dakar on Friday were organized by a group called the “Movement of the living forces of Senegal F24,” made up of more than 170 political and human rights organizations. The group’s name refers to the scheduled election date of Feb. 24, 2024.

The protests are the latest against Sall, who has refused to rule out running for another presidential term after two stints in office – a move his opponents say would be unconstitutional.

Sall, however, has not confirmed his intention to run.

Demonstrators have also called on Sall to resign and demanded the release of more than 300 “political detainees.” Many also pledged support for opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, who was recently sentenced to a suspended prison term for defamation and insulting the tourism minister.

The ruling threatens Sonko’s candidacy in the upcoming elections. The politician and his supporters have decried the sentence as politically motivated.

Sall has faced accusations of using the judiciary to target potential challengers.

A Shock Defeat


India’s main opposition Congress party secured a significant win in the Karnataka state elections over the weekend, dealing a major blow to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of next year’s national polls, Reuters reported Saturday.

Results showed the Congress party won 135 of 224 seats in the southern state’s legislature, while the BJP won 66 seats.

Home to around 65 million people, Karnataka is considered to be the BJP’s gateway to southern India, a region that the ruling Hindu-nationalist party has struggled to secure in state elections.

The Karnataka elections mark the beginning of a series of important state elections that will shape the landscape for the 2024 parliamentary polls. This election is significant as it represents the first major electoral clash between Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP and the Congress party since its leader, Rahul Gandhi, was convicted of defamation and lost his parliamentary seat in March.

The Congress party has faced electoral setbacks since losing power to Modi’s BJP in the 2014 national elections. Before their recent victory, the Congress party had only won one out of 24 state or federal territory elections since 2019, when Modi secured a second term in the national elections.

Observers noted that the BJP’s defeat in Karnataka is uncommon, considering Modi’s enduring popularity after nine years in power – making him the frontrunner for a third term out of next year’s national elections.


Harvesting Water

Great Zimbabwe was the first major metropolis in southern Africa during the medieval period.

At its peak, the city had a population of about 18,000 and was home to ruling elites, religious leaders, and craftsmen between the 11th and 15th centuries.

But today it lies in ruins and scholars have wondered what caused the demise of the once-thriving metropolis.

Some researchers have suggested drought as the culprit. However, an international research team discovered that the population had a very good water system for periods of dry spells, Science Alert reported.

In their study, researchers described the presence of a series of large, circular depressions around the city that were used to capture water.

Initially believed to be sites for digging clay, these “dhaka” pits were strategically placed to collect rain and groundwater, as well as cordon off parts of rivers and streams.

The team also gathered more evidence that these pits were used for water collection after finding the remains of plants that thrive near sources of water.

So how much water did these dhaka pits hold?

While the authors do not have an exact figure they estimate the pits may have contained almost 5 million gallons of water.

Still, they noted that there is much more to learn about Great Zimbabwe and how the city declined.

Political and economic factors may have played a role but climate change has not been ruled out.

During this time, the Earth experienced the Medieval Climatic Anomaly and the Little Ice Age, which could have put the growing city under immense stress.

Scientists hope more research will solve the mystery of Africa’s first major city.

Thank you for reading or listening to DailyChatter. If you’re not already a subscriber, you can become one by going to

Not already a subscriber?

If you would like to receive DailyChatter directly to your inbox each morning, subscribe below with a free two-week trial.

Subscribe today

Support journalism that’s independent, non-partisan, and fair.

If you are a student or faculty with a valid school email, you can sign up for a FREE student subscription or faculty subscription.

Questions? Write to us at

You don't have credit card details available. You will be redirected to update payment method page. Click OK to continue.