Less than a day after the talks between the ruling PSUV party and Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) bloc appeared to have collapsed, the two sides met again in the Dominican Republic to attempt to arrive at a peaceful solution regarding the country’s political crisis. At the heart of the debate is the timing of the upcoming presidential election, as well as the circumstances in which the vote will take place.
Just yesterday, the government of the Dominican Republic–which has been facilitating the talks since December–said that while it had expected the two sides to send their respective representatives to the island to resume the talks, neither side had done so.
Today, the MUD confirmed that it would be attending talks with the PSUV today on the island via a twitter message, which reads:
The [MUD] wishes to inform the country that it will travel to the Dominican Republic today to reiterate the four demands that we have been making since the start of this process: free elections, a humanitarian channel [to allow aid to flow into the country], the [return] of the powers of the National Assembly, and the release of all political prisoners.
The fate of the talks appeared to have been sealed when Maduro’s Constituent Assembly called for a snap election to take place no later than April 30 of this year back on January 23. The timing of the election meant that the government would have potentially less than three months to organize the vote, a fact that regime critics argued guaranteed that the election would be rigged in Maduro’s favour.
Jorge Roig, a member of the MUD’s negotiation team, said today that Maduro is “adamant” that the election take place on April 8. Roig also said that were this date chosen for the election, “there would be no possibility of having guarantees” in place to ensure a free and fair vote.
At the same time, Roig suggested that a deal might be closer than most think. On the complexity of the matter, Roig said:
… the hard part of this negotiation is precisely arriving at an agreement under which the government thinks that it can win, and that the opposition also thinks that it can win.
Roig’s hopes for an agreement appear to have been unfulfilled for another day, as the MUD tweeted out the following message late this afternoon:
The [MUD] wants to clarify to the country that at this time there is nothing like an agreement with the government. We continue to fight for the rights that all Venezuelans are waiting for.
Defiant Maduro Plans to Travel to SOA
One day after the Lima Group suggested that Maduro might not be invited to the Summit of the Americas meeting scheduled to take place in Peru on April 13-14, Caracas has confirmed that the Venezuelan leader is planning to attend the meeting.
The news came via foreign affairs minister Jorge Arreaza, who said in a tweet earlier today that Maduro was planning “to attend on schedule” in order to “defend the sovereignty of Our [sic] Latin America and Caribbean”. Arreaza also shared an image of what appears to be a formal letter of invitation addressed to Maduro from Peruvian President Pablo Kuczynski. Below, Arreaza’s tweet:
It is worth noting that the letter is dated November 11, 2017.
Yesterday, Peruvian minister of foreign affairs said that the Lima Group–which is made up of 14 nations committed to restoring democracy in Venezuela–should “carefully” consider whether or not to ask Maduro to attend the summit, suggesting the possibility that his invitation could be revoked.
Peru to Consider Naming Maduro Persona Non Grata
The Peruvian congress reacted to news that Maduro is planing to attend the Summit of the Americas in Lima in April by opening debate on naming him a persona non grata. The qualification–usually reserved for instances when one country decides to expel diplomats from another–would be the strongest possible repudiation of Maduro’s plan to travel to Peru for the summit.
The measure appears to have support from a broad coalition of parties in the Pervuian congress, including Fuerza Popular (FP), Accion Popular (AP), and the ruling Peruanos por el Kambio (KPP) party.
The measure cites “crimes” committed by the Maduro regime against the Venezuelan people as justification, and points out that these are severe enough to be brought to and prosecuted by the International Criminal Court. The measure also makes specific mention of the Oscar Perez case, whom the document says was “murdered” after “peacefully surrendering” to regime authorities.
Gilbert Violeta, a spokesperson with the KPP party, explained the meaning of the measure, saying:
What Mr. Nicolas Maduro has to know is that in Peru, political forces are telling him that he is not welcome.
Violeta also explained that the measure was meant to coincide with a formal request to the Lima Group that it ask members of the Summit of the Americas to official rescind their invitation for Maduro to participate in the summit.
Blackout Paralyzes Large Sections of Caracas
Caracas was hit by a massive blackout this afternoon that knocked out service to 10 subway stations. The blackout, which began shortly after 4:00 PM local time, affected rush hour travel.
The blackout left subway users with no option but to attempt travel on the surface. Below, an image showing large groups of pedestrians walking down an avenue following the blackout:
A close-up shot of a crowd of subway commuters forced onto the surface:
More images of the blackout’s aftermath:
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