SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – Venezuela’s government and opposition concluded a new round of talks Friday, December 15, in an effort to bridge deep and entrenched differences to find a way to end the dire political and economic crisis tearing apart their country.
After 8 hours of discussions at the foreign ministry in Santo Domingo, the two sides agreed to resume negotiations on January 11, Dominican President Danilo Medina announced.
It will be followed by a meeting of foreign ministers on January 12.
“There has been significant progress,” said Medina, whose country is hosting the second meeting after a first on December 1 and 2 yielded what was similarly termed “significant advances.”
“There are 6 major issues that we are discussing… We cannot announce any of the advances we have had because they are part of a package. As long as agreements are not reached completely, we cannot make an announcement.”
Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz expressed hope that an agreement would be “finalized” by January 12.
The parties agreed to designate a spokesperson for each side: Communication Minister Jorge Rodriguez for the government and, for the opposition, Julio Borges, president of the opposition majority parliament.
In addition to the Dominican Republic and Chile, foreign ministers from Bolivia, Mexico, Nicaragua and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are serving as guarantors of the process, along with former Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
Divided opposition and ‘sabotage’
The Venezuelan government is demanding an end to what it calls economic “sabotage” it claims is being waged by the opposition with support from the United States and Colombia.
The opposition is seeking guarantees that presidential elections next year will be transparent and fair.
The government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is feeling politically strengthened after winning local elections last weekend in which the main opposition groups were excluded and after mostly triumphing in October gubernatorial polls.
However, an opposition advisor, Colette Capriles, said those victories merely showed that Maduro was using the tactics of “contemporary dictatorships.”
Despite broad unpopularity at home and stern pressure from most countries in the Americas, Maduro has been able to tighten his grip on power in Venezuela, in large part because of a weak and fractured opposition.
The opposition is divided over the talks. Some in the coalition dismiss them as nothing more than an attempt by Maduro to buy time as he continues to consolidate power.
Over the last 3 months, his public support has risen from 24 percent to 31 percent, according to surveys by the Venebarometro firm.
The opposition coalition, the United Democratic Roundtable, over the same period saw negativity toward its image increase from 46 percent to 66 percent.
Venezuela, once Latin America’s richest country thanks to its vast oil reserves, is on the brink of default after a long slide into penury that has seen supplies of food and medicine become scarce and hundreds of thousands emigrate to survive. – Rappler.com
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