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Venezuelans put together to vote, whereas Maduro appears to consolidate energy

Here is today's foreign policy mandate: Venezuela is preparing for the National Assembly elections on Sunday United States sanctions two large Chinese companies, OPEC + Countries agree to a slight increase in oil production.

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Venezuela elects as opposition boycott election

Venezuelans will vote on Sunday in a National Assembly election that is likely to wipe out the country's opposition after months of government electoral maneuvers.

In 2015, the last time such elections were held, opposition parties won a landslide victory. The victory paved the way for the unfortunate assembly president Juan Guaidó to take power by declaring himself the rightful leader of the country. More than 50 countries accepted Guaidó's request in 2019.

Five years later, due to the decision to boycott the vote, neither Guaidó nor traditional opposition politicians are on the ballot this time. Over the summer, Venezuela's Supreme Court turned the leadership of the country's main opposition parties to government loyalists, and those party names will continue to appear on the ballot on Sunday. A new assembly dilutes Guaidó's control over Venezuela as he will no longer be the assembly's youngest president.

Turnout in the sanctioned country is expected to be low, despite government efforts to attract voters to the elections, including promising “special prices” to the communities with the highest turnout rates.

A new US approach? Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has expressed a desire to open "decent, sincere and direct channels of dialogue" with the Biden administration in hopes of breaking the "minefield between the United States government and Venezuela" left by Donald Trump.

President-elect Joe Biden has not signaled any drastic changes in US sanctions policy towards the country, despite plans to open the door to Venezuelans and address the country's humanitarian crisis. During an election freeze in Florida in October, Biden promised to grant the Venezuelans fleeing their homeland temporary protection status in the USA.

Guaidó gone? Reuters reports that the shadow government led by Juan Guaidó will be scaled back, although members of the group maintain their legitimacy, citing the authenticity of the 2015 elections, over those on Sunday, which will not be attended by United Nations observers.

Guaidó will hope to have a better start with Biden than with President Trump, who named the potential leader after Venezuela's failed Senate and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. Guaidó said he has not yet contacted Biden and his staff, but has reached out to other US politicians.

What we are following today

China's blacklist is growing. The Trump administration has two large Chinese companies, computer chip maker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) and the China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), added to their growing safety blacklist, which now includes 35 Chinese companies. By listing them, the US Department of Defense will assume they are supporting the Chinese military and will not be allowed to access US technology and investments in the future. The Pentagon began compiling the list in June. More companies are expected to join before Trump leaves office on Jan. 20.

Egyptians released. The Egyptian authorities have released three employees of the Egyptian Personal Rights Initiative, one of the few independent human rights organizations still operating in the country. The trio's arrests attracted worldwide attention in November. Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State candidate, shared his concern on Twitter. The move came when two Washington-based groups, the Center for International Policy and the Project on Middle East Democracy, urged Biden to put stringent human rights conditions on the $ 1.3 billion annual US security aid to Egypt.

Oil is ticking. OPEC + countries have agreed to increase oil production slightly in January, which is a sign of cautious optimism about a global economic recovery. The magnitude of the increase – a total of just 500,000 barrels a day – is far less than the last production increase of 2 million barrels a day in August. "We have to be careful," said Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman after the meeting, adding that much will depend on whether vaccination programs are successful. "We're not in the gambling business," he added.

Milley's reflections. When the House and Senate send a bill approving the defense budget to President Trump's desk, the top US military officer has ideas on how to reduce it. General Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, suggested Thursday that continued deployment of US troops in allied countries would require a "new edition" as the US Department of Defense had the prospect of a shrinking budget given the coronavirus engine Economic crisis. Speaking to the United States Naval Institute, Milley specifically mentioned the need to review the presence of US forces in Bahrain and South Korea, citing the cost and larger US footprint caused by military families stationed there.

Overall, Milley said the US military has "too much overseas infrastructure and too much permanent infrastructure" but is pessimistic about measures to address the problem at the political level. "Honestly, there is not much enthusiasm for doing what I just said but I think it is necessary," he said. The U.S. Department of Defense estimates the total cost of U.S. bases and operations overseas in 2020 to be $ 24.4 billion.

Cameroon votes. Cameroon will hold regional elections on Sunday to suppress separatist sentiment in the country's English-speaking regions. The vote is a long belated implementation of a 1996 decentralization law that has been ruled by President Paul Biya for 40 years. As R. Maxwell Bone recently argued in Foreign Policy, the move is a "fig leaf" offering too little and too late. Cho Ayaba, a separatist leader, has called for anyone who works to organize elections with Cameroon to be arrested.

Moldova's power struggle. The Moldovan parliament decided to remove power over the country's intelligence services from its pro-European elected President Maia Sandu just months after handing over the same powers to her predecessor Igor Dodon. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Chisinau to protest the move. Sandu accused her opponents of hiding from corruption investigations and of wanting to "throw the people's voice in a landfill" after her recent election victory. As Nicolae Reutoi argued in the FP last month, the surprise victory of a pro-European candidate is an indication of the Kremlin's dwindling influence on nearby Russia in Russia.

A man named Adolf Hitler Uunona won a landslide victory in a local election in Namibia and took a seat on the council of the constituency of Ompundja in the north of the country. However, it is unlikely that voters in the former German colony were influenced by his unusual name, as his middle initial starts with "H." was abbreviated. on official candidate lists. In an interview with the German press, Uunona said that although his father had chosen the name, he "probably did not understand what Adolf Hitler stood for".

That's it for today.

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Photo credit: Cristian Hernandez / AFP

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