After three days of talks in the Dominican Republic, the ruling PSUV party and Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) opposition bloc broke off this latest round of talks today after revealing that they had not reached an agreement to solve the country’s political crisis.
The two sides have been meeting in the Dominican Republic since December, and had hoped to reach an agreement on six key points that included a lifting of international sanctions against regime officials and finances, the opening of a humanitarian channel into the country, as well as electoral safeguards to help guarantee free and fair presidential elections.
News of the failed talks broke first through Jorge Roig, one of the people in the MUD’s negotiating team. Shortly before noon EST time, Roig tweeted:
Unfortunately there is no agreement. Intransigence from the government on fundamental matters are attempting to close off the electoral route.
Roig’s tweet appears to suggest that the PSUV was unwilling to provide guarantees that the upcoming presidential election will be held in a free and fair manner. The election, which is scheduled to take place before April 30, is widely expected to be fraudulent given that the short time between its announcement and the vote will make it impossible to institute the policies and practices needed to guarantee a fair process.
Confusion Over Status of Talks As Rodriguez Claims “Pre-Agreement”
There was confusion in the minutes following the breaking of the negotiations’ failure today as Minister of Communication Jorge Rodriguez suggested that a deal had in fact been reached between the two sides.
Speaking at a press conference in Santo Domingo at the conclusion of today’s talks, Rodriguez said that that the two sides had reached a “pre-agreement”, and that there were only a handful of “minuscule details” left to resolve. Rodriguez also said that he anticipated that those details would be ironed out within the next 72 hours.
Rodriguez did not explain what the “minuscule details” left to agree on were.
Borges: There Is No Pre-Agreement
Shortly following Rodriguez’s “pre-agreement” comments, National Assembly deputy and lead MUD negotiator Julio Borges made clear to reporters that Rodriguez’s comments were counter-factual. Borges set the record straight by saying simply:
We have not signed any pre-agreement and there is no pre-agreement.
Borges elaborated by saying that what the two sides did produce was a document outlining the points on which they have made progress, suggesting that Rodriguez may simply have spoken in confusion on the matter. Borges said:
Let me be very clear and say that we have not signed any pre-agreement. The only thing that we have is a black and white document [stating] those points on which we have made progress. We don’t have in our hands any agreement. What we do have is the possibility to advance on those points on which we have not [advanced yet].
Borges also suggested the possibility that the two sides would meet again to try reach an agreement on the outstanding points, saying:
We are going to take the next few days to work towards and suggest a solution for Venezuela.
According to Borges the work to be done in the coming days will include “consulting [with] and listening to the opinions of different sectors of Venezuela”, although it is not entirely clear at this moment what that process might look like.
The President of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina, echoed Borges’ assessment of the negotiations, further alienating Rodriguez and his comments. Medina–who has spearheaded the negotiations–also appeared to confirm that one or both sides will continue work in the talks from Caracas in the coming days. Medina said:
Until everything has been discussed, there is nothing to agree to. We cannot give details about the progress that has been made, and there are still pending matters that have to be discussed in Caracas.
Florido Lashes Out at Rodriguez Over “Pre-Agreement” Comments
National Assembly deputy Luis Florido also spoke on Jorge Rodriguez’s “pre-agreement” comments by suggesting that they were irresponsible and counter-productive.
Florido also explained that far from being “minuscule details” as Rodriguez suggested, the matters still to be decided at the negotiating table have to do with electoral safeguards. Florido said:
We’re not close to an agreement when the most important points have yet to be resolved.
La Patilla Claims “Bolivarian Mining” Taking Place in Guaire River
La Patilla published an article today in which it claims to have witnessed what appears to be a relatively new occupation: searching the Guaire river in Caracas for discarded valuables.
According to the website, a team of journalists spotted groups of young men going underwater in the Guaire river in the Bello Monte sector of Caracas, presumably looking for discarded valuables. A series of images published on the website show men reaching to the bottom of the river, or looking attentively into their cupped hands inches off the water. The body language of the men would be consistent with that of an individual looking for something in water.
The Guaire river is a heavily polluted waterway that runs through Caracas. The river runs brown with human and industrial waste, and tends to emit an overwhelmingly foul odour.
The publication of the article coincides with the release of a video on Twitter earlier today. The video, which was recorded by a private citizen, shows groups of men in the Guaire river in Caracas some time earlier today. The man recording the video believes that the men are bathing in the river, and alludes to a promise that Hugo Chavez made in 2005 that his government would clean the river to allow people to bathe in it.
Below, the video along with my translation:
Man: … the eternal and intergalactic Commander [Chavez] once said that Venezuelans would one day bathe in the Guaire river. He said it, and now it’s true. Today is January 31, 2018: Caracas, Venezuela. This is the Guaire river. Watch how these people are bathing in the river. I’m not sure what to call them–the Guaire miners? I don’t know.
The number of people in this situation is increasing constantly, unfortunately. There are so many. There are only a few here, but further up [the river] there are more. Look at this. There isn’t just one or two: it’s quite a few.
Chavez lives, gentlemen.
The video below shows men in the river from a different angle:
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