Bogota, January 16 2018 (venezuelanalysis.com) - A third round of talks between the Venezuelan government and opposition representatives in the Dominican Republic culminated with no agreement Saturday, with further talks scheduled for January 18.
Both sides were tight-lipped over the content of Saturday’s discussions. However, Dominican President Danilo Medina, whose government is facilitating the dialogue along with other regional partners, said that important progress had been made.
“Although we have made extremely important advances, we still have pending matters that must be discussed,” he stated at a press conference Saturday.
Medina expressed optimism last month that talks would be concluded by mid-January, and that there was “serious commitment” from both sides.
These internationally mediated talks are the third time dialogue between the two sides has taken place since early 2016, when the country was plunged into a political crisis provoked by a standoff between the socialist controlled executive branch and the opposition held legislature.
Previous attempts at dialogue were ultimately unsuccessful, with the opposition MUD coalition calling time on the talks on both occasions, accusing the government of failing to meet its demands. The latest endeavour began on December 1-2 and is aimed at establishing a working relationship between the government and the opposition, as well as providing solutions to Venezuela’s four year economic crisis.
For its part, the MUD is negotiating for the release of some of their activists who they call political prisoners, electoral guarantees for the 2018 presidential elections, and the restoration of the powers of the National Assembly which was declared in contempt of court by the judicial branch in 2016.
Meanwhile the government is requesting that the opposition use its influence with the United States government to have economic sanctions against the country withdrawn, and that the MUD accept the legality of the National Constituent Assembly. The government also released dozens of prisoners just before Christmas as a goodwill gesture for the ongoing talks.
Nonetheless, TeleSUR journalist Madelein Garcia has reported that the future of the talks is already in jeopardy given the opposition’s latest set of demands. On Twitter, Garcia stated that opposition legislator and negotiator Luis Florido said the MUD’s participation in the January 18 meeting would “depend on the government being more flexible in some of its positions’. Florido also allegedly stated that the opposition would not recognise the National Constituent Assembly, which was created in July in national elections boycotted by the opposition.
At the beginning of January, the talks also faced another hurdle when MUD negotiator and legislator for the New Era party Timoteo Zambrano stepped down from the dialogue team accusing other members of “censuring” him.
Zambrano said a great number of opposition leaders within the MUD had no desire to reach an agreement with the national government.