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Best of the Web

Venezuelans call for the end of the military's continued allegiance to the Maduro government; the lack of a replacement candidate provides breathing space for Brazil's scorned president; and the story of Panama's former dictator provides a lesson on U.S. intervention in Latin America.

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Venezuelan armed forces stay loyal to President Maduro

Venezuelans are criticizing the military's silence amid intense protests against the government of President Nicolás Maduro, the Financial Times' Gideon Long writes. The country's armed forces have mostly been absent amid the ongoing political ruckus, choosing to steer clear of street rallies and not publicly disparage the government despite mounting disapproval of Maduro from elsewhere. The military's inaction has drawn the ire of the anti-Maduro crowd, with many protestors brandishing posters of wartime hero Simon Bolívar and urging the military to reconsider its stance. However, the armed forces' loyalty to Maduro is not surprising as the president "has learnt how to buy it," Long says. The government "has gone to great lengths to keep the military on its side through cash bonuses, wage hikes and the doling out of lucrative governorships and ministries," a Latin American specialist was quoted as saying.

Banks to become data companies: Citibanamex

Data is becoming big business for Mexican banks, Julio Sánchez Onofre of El Economista reports. Financial institutions, as in the case with Banco Nacional de México SA, also known as Citibanamex, are looking to tap into big data, analytical technologies and artificial intelligence to further understand and better predict consumer behavior, which they say will eventually lead to providing better services. The trend is expected to usher in a new era for banks, which are looking to evolve from their traditional roles as creditors and transform themselves into "data" and "consumer experience" companies. Among banks, Citibanamex is taking the lead, starting with its announcement last year of a 25 billion Mexican peso investment that aims to digitize its branches and turn them into something like a hybrid Apple store.

Rosier economy, lack of replacement give Brazil's Temer a breather

A nascent economic recovery along with the unavailability of a viable caretaker have softened the blow of a bribery scandal for Brazil's President Michel Temer, Anthony Boadle and Alonso Soto report for Reuters. Temer's allies are reportedly struggling to agree on who to promote as a replacement in case of the president's impeachment, due to the small pool of candidates that fit the bill. Temer is also rallying allies by vowing to revive the economy and deliver unpopular but cost-saving reforms. The Brazilian leader, who is accused of receiving bribes from the owners of a giant meatpacking company, will face a decision next week from the country's top electoral court, which could either vote for the annulment of his election to temper the sprawling political crisis or decide to be more forgiving lest a second presidential eviction in a span of a year could prove to be too traumatic for Brazil.

The death of Manuel Noriega — and US intervention in Latin America

The story of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who passed away this week, provides a glimpse on the complicated history of U.S. intervention in Latin America, David Graham pens for The Atlantic. Noriega, who was trained at a young age by U.S. intelligence to inform on leftists, was largely tolerated by U.S. authorities despite the atrocities he committed during his despotic reign. But eventually Uncle Sam grew weary of Noriega's exploits which finally prompted the arrest of the leader shortly after the invasion of Panama by U.S. troops in 1989. The willingness of the U.S. to tolerate Noriega's corrupt means and its failed attempts to fully undermine leftist politics, as typified by the continued reign of left-wing Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, still haunt the region even though Panama is a "more functional democracy" that it was during Noriega's reign. "This state of affairs—and the ways in which it echoes the situation before the U.S. got involved—might suggest a level of humility, if not outright discouragement, about American ability to project power and effect change in Latin America," Graham laments, adding that Noriega's passing "is a fitting symbol of an era that looks to be ending."