Maduro made a number of comments today regarding the situation in the country from Moscow, where he gave a presentation in a panel as part of an energy summit taking place this week in the Russian capital. Maduro covered a range of topics, from oil production policy to the economy to the political situation in Venezuela.

One of the most contentious statements of the night was Maduro’s assertion that his regime was continuing to engage in dialogue with the opposition, and that the two sides were close to reaching some kind of agreement. Maduro said:

We are 95% of the way there towards an agreement with the opposition. I hope that the dialogue table will allow us to re-establish peace.

The ruling PSUV party and the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) opposition bloc were engaged in exploratory talks in September on the possibility of establishing a formal dialogue between the two sides. The talks collapsed after the MUD pulled out from the initiative, citing the regime’s inability to keep promises made during the talk. For the opposition, the fact that the promises were broken meant that the regime is not serious in its calls for a dialogue.

Turning to the economy, Maduro conceded that Venezuela’s productive capacity was unable to “satisfy internal consumption needs”, but asserted that his regime was nevertheless still able to provide “solutions” to the crisis. He did not specify what these solutions were, or when they would be implemented.

Opposition: Progress on Deal With Regime is at 0%

Shortly after Maduro made his “95%” comment, Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) representative Luis Florido sent out a series of tweets in which he refuted Maduro’s claim and said that in fact the two sides were very far away from reaching any kind of agreement. Florido–who is in charge of the opposition’s dialogue efforts with the Maduro regime–was blunt, clarifying that progress was in fact at 0%.

Below, Florido’s twitter response to Maduro’s comments:

We refute Maduro’s claims. He says progress on negotiations is at 95%. On the contrary, progress is at 0%.

Maduro is trying to create confusion as if the [negotiation process] were obscure. We are telling the world the following: we are far away from starting a negotiation process.

The exploratory phase was stopped because Maduro did not meet the conditions necessary before starting serious negotiations.

Moreover, Maduro is stopping us from substituting candidates [for the regional elections] in order to gain an advantage through trickery, but we will beat him on [October 15] anyway.

Rosneft, PDVSA in Talks Over Citgo

Minister of Oil Eulogio del Pino announced today that PDVSA was in the process of renegotiating an arrangement with Russian energy giant Rosneft over Citgo, a subsidiary of PDVSA that operates in the United States. Del Pino said that the two parties would reach an agreement on the matter “very soon”.

Reuters reported in July that Rosneft was interested in switching its 49.9%  in Citgo for ownership of oil fields in Venezuela and an oil supply agreement. It is not clear if this deal in the works announced today reflects those interested by the Russian company.

Rosneft got the 49.9% stake in Citgo as collateral for a $1.5 billion loan to Caracas last year.

“Narco Nephews” Facing Life Sentence

The “Narco Nephews”–Efrain and Francisco Flores–attended a hearing yesterday in a New York City court to launch a last attempt to mitigate their drug trafficking conviction from last year. The pair were found guilty of attempting to smuggle more than 1,700 pounds of cocaine into the United States via Haiti last year.

Efrain and Francisco are the nephews of Cilia Flores, the Venezuelan first lady, hence the nickname that the Venezuelan media has given them.

During yesterday’s hearing, the Flores’ defense argued that the judge should not consider sentencing the two to life in prison, which is a possibility given their crimes. The defense made its case through eight distinct arguments, six of which were denied by the judge.

The judge agreed with the defense on only two arguments: that the accused did not threaten to kill anyone during the commission of the crime, and that the accused did not attempt to obstruct justice during the case.

Maibort Petit has been following the case since its inception, and pointed out in an article published yesterday that the fact that the judge coincided with the defense on two points is unlikely to result in a reduction of the pairs’ sentence.

Efrain and Francisco will be sentenced on December 14. The two still face the possibility of life in prison.

Questions/Comments? E-mail me: invenezuelablog@gmail.com

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