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Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Venezuela’s opposition prepares for local and regional elections, Belarus begins moving migrants away from the Polish border, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announces repeal of controversial farm laws.


Venezuela Opposition Returns to Elections

Venezuelans go to the polls on Sunday for local and regional elections, with the country’s opposition hoping to make inroads. It’s the first time since 2017 that opposition groups will compete against President Nicolás Maduro’s United Socialist Party, indicating a shift in the opposition’s previous boycott tactics.

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Venezuela’s opposition prepares for local and regional elections, Belarus begins moving migrants away from the Polish border, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announces repeal of controversial farm laws.


Venezuela Opposition Returns to Elections

Venezuelans go to the polls on Sunday for local and regional elections, with the country’s opposition hoping to make inroads. It’s the first time since 2017 that opposition groups will compete against President Nicolás Maduro’s United Socialist Party, indicating a shift in the opposition’s previous boycott tactics.

In another unusual turn, the European Union will send observers for Sunday’s vote, the first time the bloc has sent a delegation to monitor elections in the country in 15 years. They, along with the United Nations and the U.S.-based Carter Center, will assess whether the elections are free and fair.

For Eric Farnsworth, a Latin America expert at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas (AS/COA) the vote itself is only one side of the story. “There’s no election observer who could conceivably come out and say that this was a free and fair election, based on all of the structural advantages that have been built in over the years by the PSUV,” Farnsworth told Foreign Policy, referring to the acronym for the ruling United Socialist Party. Criticisms of the electoral system include a National Electoral Council deemed loyal to Maduro as well as other repressive moves against opposition party leadership last year.

“The deck isn’t stacked against the opposition, there is no deck for the opposition to play with,” Farnsworth added.

That opposition parties are participating indicates an acknowledgment that international support for Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful leader is not enough. Indeed, popular support for the opposition leader has waned considerably since he attempted to seize power, going from 63 percent in 2019 to around 15 percent today, according to pollster Datanalisis.

Though the opposition is too fragmented to mount a significant challenge, the vote is an important first step toward rebuilding institutional networks ahead of far more important votes, including a presidential election expected in 2024. “In baseball terms, this is spring training. This is not the world series,” Geoff Ramsey, Venezuela director at the Washington Office on Latin America, told Foreign Policy. “This is the opposition returning to electoral politics in an incredibly unequal landscape. And trying to test out the electoral system as it exists and reengage with their base on the ground.”

When voting ends on Sunday, Maduro’s government will still be in place, as will the sanctions imposed by successive U.S. administrations. If things are to change, Ramsey said, a new approach from the Biden administration may be necessary. That could start with offering Venezuelan authorities a road map of actions that would lead toward easing sanctions, akin to what Iran was offered in April. “We haven’t seen that same detail being presented, at least publicly, to the Maduro regime,” Ramsey said.

But it’s not just the United States that needs to engage with Venezuela, where a deteriorating economy has caused a widespread exodus of citizens to neighboring states. “The one thing I would like to see is much more Latin American voices in this space. But they’re just not showing up,” AS/COA’s Farnsworth said. “And so then, it comes back to the United States. And that’s not fair necessarily, because that’s not where we want to be, but we’re forced into that role because nobody else is taking leadership.”


What We’re Following Today

Belarus lowers tensions. Belarus began removing migrants from camps near its border with Poland on Thursday in a sign of de-escalation after weeks of tensions between Belarus and Polish authorities. The movement comes as hundreds of Iraqi migrants boarded repatriation flights facilitated by Iraq’s government the same day. EU and German leaders have rejected a proposal from Belarus to accept 2,000 migrants, while Belarus sends 5,000 home. “If we took in refugees, if we bowed to the pressure and said, ‘We are taking refugees into European countries,’ then this would mean implementing the very basis of this perfidious strategy,” German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said.

Modi climbs down on farm laws. India is set to repeal laws aimed at liberalizing the country’s agriculture sector, caving to the demands of a yearlong protest movement of farmers who saw the laws as a threat to their livelihoods. In a surprise Friday announcement, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the process to withdraw the laws would begin by the end of the month. The move comes as Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party faces state elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab early next year.


Keep an Eye On

IAEA to Tehran. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, will travel to Tehran on Tuesday for talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and nuclear energy chief Mohammad Eslami. The trip comes amid tensions between the IAEA and Iran over monitoring access and alleged rough treatments of inspectors. It also comes before the IAEA Board of Governors meets and ahead of the resumption of nuclear negotiations in Vienna slated for Nov. 29.

What Russia wants. In a foreign-policy speech on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for long-term security guarantees from the West as he criticized the flying of strategic bombers near Russian territory. “We’re constantly voicing our concerns about this, talking about redlines, but we understand our partners—how shall I put it mildly—have a very superficial attitude to all our warnings and talk of redlines,” Putin said. His comments come as Western leaders voice their own concerns about a recent military buildup near Ukraine’s border


Odds and Ends  

A Chinese man who livestreams his food binges has complained of discrimination after he was banned from an all-you-can-eat restaurant in the city of Changsha. The man, known only as Mr. Kang, had eaten roughly 8 pounds of shrimp on a recent visit, behavior that prompted the restaurant’s owner to ban Kang, and all livestreamers, from his establishment.

“Every time he comes here, I lose a few hundred yuan,” the owner told Hunan TV.

“Even when he drinks soy milk, he can drink 20 or 30 bottles. When he eats the pork trotters, he consumes the whole tray of them. And for prawns, usually people use tongs to pick them up, he uses a tray to take them all.”

“I can eat a lot—is that a fault?” Kang said.

The restaurant owner has the Chinese government on its side. Authorities recently began a crackdown on eating influencers in the country and may ban the practice altogether.


That’s it for today.

Correction, Nov. 19, 2021: Juan Guaidó is a Venezuelan politician and opposition leader. This article has been updated to correct a misspelling in his name.