Less than 24 hours after Maduro announced that his party and the opposition Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) bloc would sit for a new round of dialogue starting on September 26, the opposition leadership clarified that no such agreement had been made, and suggested that the MUD had serious reservations about whether the dialogue could take place at all.
The MUD refuted Maduro’s dialogue claim through a press conference today headed by National Assembly president Julio Borges and deputy Luis Florido. Calling the talks with regime officials that took place in the Dominican Republic this week “exploratory”, Florido clarified that the opposition was not engaged in a dialogue with the PSUV: rather, the two sides were merely exploring the conditions under which such a dialogue might take place.
Florido suggested that the MUD was wary of the fact that the Maduro regime has used dialogue as a propaganda tool against the opposition and as a way to win itself time. He explained:
These are exploratory meetings. Exploration is neither dialogue nor negotiation. We’ve learned our lesson with this government. The government always tries to use everything for propaganda.
Earlier this week, the MUD released a document outlining a set of demands it wants the regime to abide by effective immediately before any kind of dialogue can take place. The demands include the release of political prisoners and the announcement of presidential elections.
Florido spoke on the importance of the demands, saying:
Until the conditions [for the dialogue], the guarantees and the agenda are clear, we are not going to take even a single step forward towards a process of negotiation (…) We’re not in a hurry, but we won’ts stop. We will not be pressured, and we will not allow the government to impose its agenda on us.
While the fate of the talks is still in the air, there appears to be increasing international desire to see the dialogue talk place. Bolivia, Nicaragua, Mexico, Chile, Paraguay and the Vatican have already thrown their weight behind and offered their help with the process.
Borges: Regime Cannot Be Allow to “Make Fools Of Us” Again
For his part, National Assembly president Julio Borges stressed that the MUD could not allow the PSUV to take advantage of its desire to find a peaceful solution to the crisis. Borges claims that this was the case last year, when the regime and the opposition engaged in a dialogue that is widely regarded as having been completely ineffective at everything but buying the regime more time.
On the ongoing exploratory talks, Borges said:
This doesn’t mean that we have entered a process of negotiation, because they cannot make fools of us like they did last year.
The MUD walked away from the dialogue table at the end of last year after the regime broke a promise to release political prisoners, an act that the opposition considered a clear sign that Maduro had no real intention to engage in meaningful discussions.
Borges also suggested that any decision to move forward with a dialogue with the PSUV, or any decision deriving from such a dialogue, would first be put to a referendum vote to allow the Venezuelan people to have the ultimate say on the matter. Borges said:
There must be a popular referendum to back up any steps forward.
Borges called the constant statements from Maduro and other regime officials calling for and praising the dialogue “a show”, given the fact that for all of its talk on the wonders of the process the regime appears unwilling to actually engage in sincere talks with the opposition.
Earlier today, one of the members of the PSUV’s talks delegation–Constituent Assembly president Delcy Rodriguez–used the talks as a chance to insult the opposition, telling a crowd of supporters in a Caracas theater the following:
We [the PSUV] will use the dialogue as an educational exercise for those traitors [the opposition] who are calling for international intervention in the country.
Rodriguez also said that opponents of the Maduro regime were committing “the biggest injustice on the planet” by criticizing the Venezuelan government, and blamed the opposition for instigating “fascist violence” in the country.
Arreaza: Maduro “Could Have Resorted to Repression”, But Didn’t
Foreign affairs minister Jorge Arreaza spoke today during a regime rally in Caracas on the anti-government protests that rocked Venezuela from April 1 to July 31 of this year. The protests–which left at least 135 people dead— were the most violent and widespread that the country has seen in years.
Arreaza spoke specifically on the way in which the Maduro regime responded to the unrest, saying:
President Nicolas Maduro could have resorted to other means (…) he could have resorted to repression. But president Maduro resorted to the people’s will (…) and said “let’s have a Constituent Assembly”.
The Maduro regime’s brutal repression of the largely peaceful protests this summer sent shockwaves around the world and received universal condemnation from human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations.
Isturiz Blames Years of Shortages on Two-Week-Old Sanctions
Former vice president and current Anzoategui state gubernatorial candidate Aristobulo Isturiz spoke at a regime rally this afternoon where he blamed years of food and medicine shortages on a set of economic sanctions from the United States that were only announced three weeks ago.
We’ve seen how President Maduro has made efforts to bring food [to Venezuela], and they [the US] have boycotted us [sic] so that we cannot pay for it. Once we’re able to pay for it thanks to friendly countries like Russia or China, they will launch a naval blockade (…) and our people have been lining up [for food] and suffering and it’s their fault, so that our people will turn against the government. But our people have resisted and should continue to resist, and we should take the necessary economic measures to face the economic war.
On August 25 of this year, the White House banned United States financial institutions from buying or trading Venezuelan bonds. The sanctions, which are by far the most broad and severe taken by the United States against the Maduro regime, were preceded by at least four years of severe food and medicine shortages.
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