Opposition and regime negotiators arrived in the Dominican Republic today to kick off the second round of talks aimed at defusing the political crisis in the country. The talks follow two days of meetings between the opposition Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) bloc and the ruling PSUV party on the island on December 1-2. Those talks ended without concrete agreements, except that the talks should continue.
National Assembly president Julio Borges said in a press release that the he was hopeful that the talks would yield benefit to the people of Venezuela. Borges said that he believes that the position of the MUD going into the talks was strong, and that the bloc would accept any proposal from the PSUV so long as it helped to alleviate the plight of Venezuelans.
Unlike previous negotiation attempts between the two sides, this latest instance involves representatives from several regional nations, including Mexico, Chile, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
National Assembly deputy and MUD negotiator Luis Florido tweeted out a message this morning signalling the start of the day’s talks. Below, the message along with my translation:
The meeting in the Dominican Republic has started. We know where we tread. We know that that the weight of a Venezuela that wants CHANGE and the desperation [stemming from] the crisis are on our backs. We know that we cannot make mistakes. We are obliged to move forward.
At the conclusion of today’s meeting, Dominican Republic president Danilo Medina announced that the two sides would meet again on January 11 and 12, and that the talks were proceeding earnestly.
Rodriguez: Talks Resulting in Progress
PSUV negotiator and Minister of Communication Jorge Rodriguez spoke to reporters before the start of today’s talks, and that that progress was being made on the six points for discussion. These six points, broadly speaking, include four demands from the MUD and two from the PSUV. These six points are:
- Allowing humanitarian aid to flow into the country (MUD).
- A change in the leadership of the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE), the regime-controlled electoral body (MUD).
- The liberation of political prisoners (MUD).
- The restoration of the National Assembly’s constitutional powers (MUD).
- Respect for the country’s “political and economic guarantees” (PSUV).
- An end to “the external violence against Venezuela”.
Both the MUD and the PSUV have been tight-lipped about exactly how much progress has been made on which points.
In his statement today, Rodriguez appeared to undermine at least one of the MUD’s demands: that the regime allow the flow of medicine and food into the country in order to lessen the effects of the country’s economic collapse on the Venezuelan people. Rodriguez said:
In Venezuela, if there’s one person who is paying attention to the matter of food and medicine and of taking care of people it’s President Maduro.
Non-MUD Opposition Calls for Firm Stance on Constituent Assembly
Two opposition leaders who have been critical of the MUD–Maria Corina Machado and Antonio Ledezma–renewed calls today to ensure that the bloc does not yield on the matter of the Constituent Assembly.
In a video posted on Twitter, Ledezma said that he hoped that “no one would even think about” recognizing the Constituent Assembly as a legitimate institution, which is a likely condition that the PSUV will attach to its demands. Machado sounded less optimistic, suggesting that even if the MUD were to agree to recognize the Constituent Assembly, “we will never do it”.
The Constituent Assembly was elected in what is likely to be the single largest electoral fraud event in the country’s recent history. At least fifteen people died in clashes with security forces on July 30, the day of the Constituent Assembly election, as the vote for the deeply unpopular measure took place. Three days later, the company that provided the voting machines for the election issued an unprecedented statement saying that the election’s results as announced by the Maduro regime did not match the votes collected by the machines, which suggests that the regime simply made up the election’s results.
While the Constituent Assembly is technically only convened to when a new constitution is needed, the Maduro regime has instead taken advantage of its supra-constitutional powers to turn it into a de facto legislature, effectively killing the National Assembly.
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