Tuesday 12 December 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 12/12/2023

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Host with the most: Gonsalves (fourth from left) with Maduro (centre)

Image: Alamy

DIPLOMACY / Gregory Scruggs

Small but mighty

For many foreign editors, the recent referendum in Venezuela that approved claiming sovereignty over a large part of the oil-rich Essequibo region was a “Latin American” issue. But Essequibo comprises two-thirds of neighbouring Guyana, which makes the ongoing squabble both Latin American and Caribbean. That’s why Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, and his Guyanese counterpart, Mohamed Irfaan Ali, are expected to meet this Thursday in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

How did this archipelago of about 100,000 citizens end up as the chief peacemaker in this dispute? The credit goes to the Vincentian prime minister, Ralph Gonsalves, who is currently in his fifth term and has pushed his nation to punch above its weight diplomatically. As the current president of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Gonsalves had the gravitas to invite Maduro and Ali to Kingstown in the hope of calming tensions. In July he led the regions’ delegation at the EU-CELAC summit in Brussels. Last year he made his 12th trip to Taiwan, which Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has long recognised as a sovereign state. And from 2020 to 2021, the country sat on the UN Security Council, becoming the smallest ever to do so.

These recent achievements have burnished Gonsalves’s credentials, while his longevity gives him leverage. Known as “Comrade Ralph” for his leftist politics, he was close to Maduro’s immediate predecessor, Hugo Chávez. Meanwhile, both Guyana and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are members of the Caribbean Community. Despite Guyana’s location on the South American mainland, the former British colony is a decidedly Caribbean nation.

Brazil has moved troops north to its shared border with Venezuela and remains the region’s diplomatic powerhouse. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has also acted as a mediator over the phone. But the fact that Gonsalves will host the key meeting on Thursday is a testament to the power of small-state diplomacy.

Gregory Scruggs is a regular contributor to Monocle. He holds an MA in Latin American and Caribbean regional studies from Columbia University and has previously travelled to Guyana. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Politics / Egypt

No alternative

The polls opened last Sunday for Egypt’s presidential election, which officially ends tonight. The country’s economic crisis and inflation rate of nearly 40 per cent will certainly be on voters’ minds. Despite this, Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has faced no serious opposition since he seized power in 2013 and this year’s election appears to be no different. “Anybody who stood a real chance of presenting a different vision for the country was prevented from running,” Ruth Michaelson, a journalist formerly based in Egypt, tells The Monocle Minute. “The country’s leadership made sure that there wasn’t any credible choice on the ballot. How many people no longer want the president in power? We don’t know the answer. The point of a democratic election is to find out but El-Sisi’s government has made sure that this won’t happen.”

For more on Egypt’s presidential election, tune in to Monday’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio.


Between the buttons

Looking for the perfect present this holiday season? Then let us inspire you with our Advent gift guide. Every day until Christmas, we will be showcasing one item featured in our Alpino newspaper, which is out now in kiosks and available from our online shop.

Shearling car coat by Brioni
No winter wardrobe is quite complete without a shearling car coat. This light-beige one from Italian menswear brand Brioni features horn buttons and soft nappa leather.

Cutting the ribbon: the opening ceremony of the new Swarovski flagship in New York

Image: Getty Images

Retail / USA

Clear as crystal

Swarovski has opened its newest and largest flagship on New York’s Fifth Avenue and 54th Street. The two-storey shop was designed by the Austrian jewellery company’s creative director, Giovanna Engelbert, who wanted the space to reflect the brand’s 128-year history and specialisation in glass crystals. “From the grand staircase in the shape of an octagon to the use of quilted velvet and silk throughout, the details are intended to provide customers with the feeling of being inside a luxurious jewellery box,” she says.

Inside, shoppers will find collections of crystal jewellery, homeware, eyewear and limited-edition products, including fine jewellery that features lab-grown diamonds. This latest retail offering follows Swarovski’s rebrand to appeal to a younger market, repositioning the company in a more modern context with bolder, more playful designs. Breakfast at Swarovski’s, anyone?

Beyond the Headlines

Hitting the tiles: the latest issue of ‘Apartamento’

Q&A / ‘Apartamento’ magazine

Beyond the page

Apartamento magazine recently released its 32nd issue, which features a striking cover shot by photographer Chris Luttrell. As well as publishing biannually from its offices in Barcelona, Apartamento produces several books a year and is currently exploring retail with a pop-up shop in Berlin, which runs until 22 December. We speak to the magazine’s publisher and creative director, Marco Velardi, and its editorial director, Robbie Whitehead.

What can you tell us about your bookshop in Berlin?
Marco Velardi: We wanted to come up with something for the holiday season. It’s part of a series of experiments. We had a successful pop-up shop for Milan Design Week in April. We realised that there was an opportunity to create a retail experience with our books and magazine – an environment where people can come together and enjoy our publications.

Can we talk about issue 32’s amazing cover?
Robbie Whitehead: It’s the first toilet to appear on an Apartamento cover. Marianna Rothen is the artist pictured. She’s reading Bell Hooks’ All About Love in a bathtub in her house in upstate New York. It was easy to pick the shot as it’s such a strong image.

Tell us about your latest book releases. Can we find them in your Berlin shop?
Marco Velardi: Yes, we are selling all of our books in the shop. You’ll find some old editions that are almost sold out and difficult to find. In terms of book publishing, we’re trying to expand our boundaries. We are preparing a big cookbook by Frederik Bille Brahe from Copenhagen restaurant Atelier September.

Listen to our full interview with Marco Velardi and Robbie Whitehead on the latest episode of ‘The Stack’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: James Car

Monocle Radio / The Big Interview

Tim Peake

UK astronaut Tim Peake discusses his remarkable career, the future of space exploration and his new book, Space: The Human Story, with Andrew Mueller.


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