The talks between the ruling PSUV party and the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) opposition bloc appear to have died today, as neither side sent a delegation to the Dominican Republic where the dialogue was set to resume today.
The news came via Hugo Beras, a spokesperson with the Dominican ministry of foreign affairs, who said:
We’ve been ready here in the Dominican Republic waiting for confirmation from the parties [that they were coming], both the government and the opposition, but we have not yet received it.
The talks between the two sides have been teetering on the brink of collapse since Maduro’s Constituent Assembly announced a snap presidential election to take place before April 30. One of the negotiation points that the MUD considered most important had to do with establishing safeguards to ensure that the vote was not rigged in favour of Maduro, a fact that the opposition argued could not happen if the election were held so soon.
The Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE), the regime body in charge of organizing and holding elections, had not announced the date of the presidential vote, leading observers to speculate that this meant that the regime was waiting for the dialogue to bear fruit before making the date public.
On January 30, the two sides broke off the talks after failing to reach an agreement, but agreed to meet at a later date to try again. That day, Minister of Communication Jorge Rodriguez told the media that the two sides had in fact reached a “pre-agreement”, a comment that was immediately refuted by opposition figures who assured the press that no such agreement existed.
PSUV Official Sees Economic Improvement in 2018
Constituent Assembly deputy Jesus Faria appeared this afternoon on Globovision‘s Vladimir a la 1, a daily interview show that regularly features political figures.
In the interview, Faria said that Venezuela’s economy is heading towards a period of “flexibilization” that would result in a less restrictive currency exchange system than the one that is currently in place.
Under the current exchange system, access to foreign currency is severely restricted. Venezuelans wishing to exchanged Bolivares for foreign currency must go through a lengthy and complicated process through a government organization, and are subject to a limit on the amount of money that they can exchange. This fact leaves many with no option but to resort to the black market for foreign currency.
Faria said that last year, the Maduro government did “not have the opportunity” to fix the country’s economic collapse “because [they opposition] wanted to burn down the country” in reference to the anti-government protest movement that swept through the country for much of last year and claimed the lives of at least 136 people.
On the economic outlook for this year, Faria said:
I don’t know if the economy will recover this year, but it will get better.
Faria’s comments took a conspiratorial turn when he spoke about DolarToday, a perennial enemy of the Maduro regime. The website, which posts black market currency exchange rates, is often blamed by Maduro and other regime officials for single-handedly destroying the Venezuelan economy. On the website, Faria said:
There’s an economic power that promotes DolarToday. There are lots of speculators and there’s a criminal dictatorship against the people. [Currency exchange] controls always create a black market, but that page [is run] to destabilize the country economically. We have to defeat it.
DolarToday is the most prominent currency exchange website in Venezuela. The website is run by Gustavo Diaz, who lives in Alabama and works in the hardware section of a Home Depot during the day.
Lima Group Debates Maduro Invitation for Americas Summit
The Lima Group–an organization of 14 nations working to restore democratic order in Venezuela–is debating whether or not to invite Maduro to the Summit of the Americas (SOA), which is scheduled to take place in Lima, Peru in April.
News of the debate inside the group came via Peruvian Foreign Affairs minister Cayetena Aljovin, who said in a televised interview last night that the matter had to be “carefully determined”.
The Maduro regime has grown increasingly isolated from the international community in recent years, given its hard drive towards authoritarianism. Maduro regime officials are the targets of financial sanctions in Canada, the United States, and the European Union. In August of last year, the White House placed sanctions on the regime’s ability to access international finances.
Tear Gas Grenade Goes Off in Caracas Subway Station
At least one tear gas grenade detonated inside the Plaza Venezuela subway station this morning, sending commuters scrambling for fresh air.
Below, a video of tear gas clouds inside the Plaza Venezuela station this morning:
A commuter told CaraotaDigital this morning that the grenade detonated just as a train was pulling into the station.
Edison Alvarado, the president of the subway workers’ union, said in a radio interview this morning that two grenades might have been involved in the event, which he called a “terrorist” attack. Alvarado said:
Right now, the authorities are right in the middle of the investigation. They detonated the grenade on line two of Plaza Venezuela heading to Palo Verde, on the fourth car. There were 1,300 users [in the station]. Once [the perpetrators] saw that the users were choking, they threw the second grenade.
It is not clear at this time who perpetrated the act, or for what reason.
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