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Venezuela's Peace Talks Proceed Despite MUD Boycott

Merida, 27th February 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Peace talks held in Venezuela on Wednesday were backed by social movements and community, businesses and religious groups, though the country's main political opposition coalition boycotted the event. 

Chaired by President Nicolas Maduro, last night the National Peace Conference condemned violence, and negotiations were held to lay the groundwork for further projects aimed at reconciliation.

Held at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, the event brought together governors, mayors, legislators, religious figures, trade unionists, the country's largest business group Fedecamaras, pro-government student groups and others.

Maduro urged representatives from across the political spectrum to join, “without conditions...or agenda[s]”.

“I have convened [the conference] to build an agenda for peace among all,” the president stated.

Along with a deal being signed to renounce violence, a “truth commission of the economy” was also announced by Maduro within the framework of the conference. Details of the economic commission are yet to be released, although it will be a forum of discussion between the government, the private sector and the state-owned sector. The president of the Polar Company, Lorenzo Mendoza, will participate. Polar is Venezuela's largest domestic food producer, and has long had a frosty relationship with the government.

However, Maduro described Mendoza as “ready” to participate in the initiative, while Mendoza himself confirmed he would join the commission. The Polar head stated he supports “effective, frank dialogue unconditionally with all”.

While attending the conference, Fedecamaras president Jorge Roig described peaceful opposition demonstrations as “legitimate”, but likewise condemned violence. Although he criticised Maduro for high levels of scarcity and inflation, Roig affirmed that Fedecamaras wouldn't again seek to overthrow the government, as it did in 2002.

“Fedecamaras won’t replace the national government...because the government cannot replace Fedecamaras,” Roig stated.

He also accused the government of low-balling inflation figures.

However, other outspoken government critics such as Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles boycotted the talks. Hours ahead of yesterday's conference the main opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) announced they wouldn't attend. MUD head Ramon Aveledo accused the government of not providing sufficient details of the content of the talks, saying they lacked “transparency”, and demanding a “national or international” arbiter.

Via Twitter, Capriles conceded that “most of the country wants dialogue”.

“But sincere dialogue, transparent, effective,” he stated.

The MUD likewise rejected a similar call for peace talks last week.

Yesterday the opposition again took to the streets.

The wife of detained far right figure Leopoldo Lopez, Lilian Tintori, led a march against the government. The marchers were instructed to wear white.

“People feel they’re imprisoned in their houses, they’re afraid of going out, going out with their children or that their children go out at night,” Tintori stated.

The head of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello criticised the MUD for rejecting yesterday's conference, but urged opposition leaders to participate in future talks.

“We have an outstretched hand. Let's shake hands for Venezuela,” Cabello stated.

Maduro himself expressed optimism that progress had been made during the conference.

“I think ongoing work...can lead us to a set of agreements,” he said.

The peace conference came on the eve of a six day weekend. Thursday has been declared a public holiday, extending an annual long weekend usually reserved for carnivals. However, a few of Venezuela's annual carnivals have already been cancelled due to security concerns.

Published on Feb 27th 2014 at 8.09pm