World News Brief, Wednesday February 20

Chavez returns to duty after two months off for cancer treatment; China denies hacking claims; former Japanese prime minister paves way for Japan-Russia leadership meeting; Obama may consider arming Syrian opposition; ANC dismisses new South African party; and more

Top of the Agenda: Chavez’s Return Raises Questions

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez returned to Caracas (LAHT) early Monday after spending two months out of the public eye for cancer surgery in Cuba, announcing his return to his four million followers on Twitter. The government said that he had been taken to a military hospital to continue with his treatments, but gave no new details on his health or images of his arrival (AP). Chavez, who has served as president for fourteen years, was reelected for another six-year term in October 2012, but has yet to be sworn in for his new term. Analysts say that doubts remain (BBC) about whether his health will allow him to return to active politics.


"Among the political factors at work, analysts said Monday, is the 46% devaluation of Venezuela's currency ordered this month by Chavez's designated political heir, Vice President Nicolas Maduro. The move could carry political costs in the long term that would make it expedient for Chavistas to hold quick elections if the president is too ill to govern," write Chris Kraul and Mery Mogollon for the LA Times.

"Until now, the government has studiously avoided talking about the possibility of holding an election to replace Mr. Chávez. But on Monday, a government-run newspaper, Correo del Orinoco, ran a banner front-page headline saying that Mr. Maduro, who is Mr. Chávez's designated successor, would win an 'eventual presidential election' — a shift in tone that analysts viewed as particularly significant," writes William Neuman for the New York Times.

"Whoever winds up replacing Mr Chávez will face a daunting economic test. GDP is expected to stagnate in 2013, while inflation continues to rise. Even though exporters will benefit from a slightly cheaper bolívar and the right to keep a greater share of their foreign-currency revenues in dollars, the government still thwarts their efforts with a thicket of red tape," writes the Economist.



China Responds to Hacking Claims

China lashed back against a report by Mandiant Corp., a U.S. computer security firm, which accused a group attached to the People's Liberation Army of stealing large amounts of data (WSJ) from U.S. companies over a seven-year period.

CFR's Adam Segal discusses China's hacking scandal in this article.

JAPAN: Former Japanese prime minister Yoshiro Mori will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday to prepare for a possible visit (JapanTimes) by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.


Obama may consider arming Syrian opposition

African National Congress dismisses new party

 This is an excerpt of the Daily News Brief. The full version is available on