The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) opposition bloc announced today that it is willing to engage in talks with the Maduro regime in order to come to an agreement regarding the presidential elections that are scheduled to take place next year. The surprise announcement is likely to signal the start of the first formal talks between the two sides since the end of last year, pending agreement from the ruling PSUV party.
The news came via a press conference led by Julio Borges, the National Assembly president and head of the Primero Justicia (PJ) party. Borges said that the MUD had reached out to countries in the region in the hopes that they would help facilitate the dialogue, and that the PSUV was doing the same. National Assembly deputy and PJ member Luis Florido said that the MUD had approached Mexico, Chile and Paraguay as facilitators, and that the PSUV had reached out to three undisclosed countries for the same role.
It was also announced during the press conference that it was possible that the European Union, the United States, and the Lima Group will also participate in the dialogue.
Borges said that the purpose of the dialogue will be to establish a set of rules to give Venezuelans “peace and confidence” that the 2018 presidential elections will not be rigged in favour of the PSUV.
Borges made the announcement by saying:
We are announcing that we have developed and deployed our relationships with Latin America in order to achieve electoral conditions that will allow us to participate in presidential elections. We are committed to continue to knock on the doors of neighbouring counties. The [international facilitation] group has yet to be ironed out, but we’ve already knocked on the doors of Mexico, Chile, and Paraguay, all of whom have expressed that they are willing to help out with this.
Florido explained that convincing the PSUV to participate in a dialogue involving international assistance was not an easy task, and that the Dominican Republic was also involved in the talks. He said:
Bringing the government onto the international stage is a process that has not been easy (…) we have to deal with the humanitarian crisis that is affecting Venezuela. We are waiting for the Dominican Republic to set a date, together with the government and [the MUD], for the start of this process.
Florido also appeared to be cautiously optimistic about the dialogue, apparently in large part due to the fact that these talks will involve international assistance. Florido said:
This is the first time that we will have an international negotiation process. The presence of these countries and of the Lima Group is no small thing. Will this process be successful? We cannot guarantee that. But we can guarantee the Venezuelan people that we will keep them informed about everything that happens during this negotiation process.
The last time that the opposition and the PSUV engaged in dialogue was at the end of 2016. The dialogue ended in failure after the PSUV failed to maintain a promise to free political prisoners, and resulted in the MUD withdrawing from the talks and demanding immediate elections.
Regime Sets Date for Dialogue
A few short hours after the MUD’s announcement, the Maduro regime announced that the dialogue with the opposition would begin next Wednesday, November 15.
The announcement was made by Minister of Communication Jorge Rodriguez through a tweet:
I’m confirming what was said by the head spokesperson from the right wing [Luis Florido], [and] we re-affirm that which has already been stated: the dialogue will continue on November 15 in the Dominican Republic, and we will be there.
Rodriguez also suggested that the two sides were already at work on a joint document:
We are preparing a joint document with agreements within the framework of coexistence and The Peace [sic] that we Venezuelans so dearly love and deserve.
Vente Venezuela Rejects Dialogue
During the same press conference, Florido explained that the decision to engage in dialogue with the PSUV was discussed with all of the MUD’s parties that are represented in the National Assembly, a qualifier that includes Maria Corina Machado’s Vente Venezuela (VV). However, VV deputy Juan Pablo Garcia later clarified that his party was not consulted about the dialogue, and in fact does not agree with participating in it.
Vente Venezuela did not go to any meeting and is not participating in any of these events. Stop lying to the country. Our firm and coherent position remains.
In a press release issued after today’s MUD press conference, VV called the dialogue “fraudulent” and said that its purpose was to ‘benefit the regime and lie to the country”.
VV is arguably the largest radically anti-regime party in the Venezuelan opposition. The party withdrew from the MUD in early August after the coalition announced that it was planning to participate in the October 15 gubernatorial elections.
U.S. Treasury Department Sanctions 10 More Regime Officials
The United States Department of the Treasury placed financial sanctions on 10 more Maduro regime officials this afternoon. The sanctions target individuals whom the United States government believes are “associated with undermining electoral processes, media censorship, or corruption in government-administered food programs in Venezuela”.
The sanctions freeze all of the named individuals’ assets in the United States, and prohibit United States citizens from conducting business with them.
The 10 targeted individuals are:
- Sandra Oblitas (Electoral official)
- Socorro Hernandez (Electoral official)
- Carlos Quintero (Electoral official)
- Elvis Amoroso (Constituent Assembly executive member)
- Julian Rodriguez Diaz (Ambassador to Italy and Constituent Assembly member)
- Ernesto Villegas (Former Minister of Communication and current Minister of Culture)
- Jorge Marquez Monsalve (Minister of the Office of the Presidency and former telecommunications chief)
- Manuel Melendez (President of the state-owned CANTV and Movilnet telecommunications companies)
- Calros Osorio (Former Minister of Food Sovereignty)
- Freddy Bernal (Head of the CLAP food distribution system)
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