Tuesday. 5/3/2019

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alejandro Cegarra

Opener / Megan Gibson

Tread carefully

Here’s a history lesson for Donald Trump: in the early 2000s, amid growing discontent with Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan businessman Pedro Carmona organised a strike, attempted a coup and even managed to have the president detained. But Carmona’s success was short-lived: loyalists helped put Chávez back in office within days and Carmona fled the country. It was later revealed that the CIA knew of the coup plot in advance. For Chávez the incident was ammunition served on a silver platter: he was subsequently able to depict any opponents as anti-democratic.

Nearly 20 years on, opponents of Nicolás Maduro, whose iron-fisted rule has seen the country become a failed state, should take heed. Backed by foreign leaders – including, most vocally, Donald Trump – politician Juan Guaidó has staked a claim to the top job (he is recognised by some as interim president). After calling for nationwide protests yesterday he’s vowed to return to Venezuela, even though he is likely to be arrested when he arrives. Maduro has seized on Trump’s theatrics and his threat of military force to paint Guaidó as a US puppet – a tactic that still appeals to his supporters.

There’s no question that Venezuela needs urgent change but it also faces a dilemma: Maduro must be ousted but a US-backed military intervention would be a catastrophic way to see him go.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Estonia

Right on the rise

The weekend’s Estonian election was a clash of the centrists, with the country’s centre-right Reform party taking power from the Centre party. Its leader, Kaja Kallas, is set to become the country’s first woman prime minister. Alarmingly, however, the far-right Conservative People’s party (EKRE) came in third, snagging 18 per cent of the vote by pursuing an anti-immigration and anti-EU agenda, even though the country is home to very few immigrants. Quentin Peel, associate fellow with the Europe Programme at Chatham House, believes that EKRE’s success is due to a residual resentment towards the Russian community in the country. “Estonians feel overwhelmingly that Russians, who represent about 30 per cent of the population, were forced upon them,” he told The Briefing. “Although this party was talking about Middle Eastern and north African migrants, they are really not there in Estonia. It is the Russian question that has never gone away.”

Image: Getty Images

Education / USA

Late bloomers

Life as a freshman isn’t easy. Often US students aren’t prepared financially, academically nor personally for their first year of college. Boston city councillor Michael Flaherty thinks he has found a solution: keep high-schoolers in the city back a year so that they have more time to prepare for higher education. The initiative, named Year 13, would allow students to volunteer for an extra year of schooling after they graduate. The idea has garnered support in the city after a quarter of students who took part in a long-running study between 2005 and 2007 failed to complete their degree within six years. Flaherty’s proposal is not a panacea but it is a step towards addressing an education system that is failing many.

Image: Ben Roberts

Urbanism / The Netherlands

Spaghetti junction

Amsterdam’s mayor, Femke Halsema, is engaged in a row with the committee in charge of naming the city’s streets. Last month she threw out a proposal to name roads in IJburg (Amsterdam’s newest neighbourhood) after 16th-century naval admirals. The rebuttal came after concerns were raised about whether the suggested figures had links to the slave trade. Halsema countered with the idea to pay tribute to leaders of slave uprisings instead – but that was vetoed too. Last week the committee proposed using words associated with international dance to christen the streets but Halsema isn’t keen; she says that the city will have to use numbers if a theme can’t be agreed upon soon. For more on this story listen to The Monocle Daily.

Image: Taro Terasawa

Business / Japan

Kicking back

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare is set to introduce steps to allow workers to enjoy some downtime. Alarming new figures revealed that last year only 51 per cent of granted annual leave was actually used; Japanese office workers are facing mounting pressure to overperform and many believe that they are displaying diligence by skipping leave. Those in the hospitality, retail and construction industries are among the worst for snapping up some downtime. But, as of 1 April, employers will be responsible for ensuring that their workers use at least five days of their legally entitled 10-day allowance. The aim is to boost the quota of annual leave taken to 70 per cent by 2020.

Generation craft – Made in France

Sophie Grove discusses the meaning of “Made in France” and the state of French craft with Monocle’s fashion director Daphné Hézard and Gauthier Borsarello, editor in chief of L’Etiquette. Plus: we visit École Boulle, Chanel’s goldsmiths and the Peugeot pepper mill.

The art of restoration

Monocle Films pays a visit to a restoration firm that has saved pieces by artists as diverse as Caravaggio and John Kirby.

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