Mérida, 27th March 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) called for an end to violence in Venezuela, after a delegation from the regional organisation held a two-day visit to the country.
“The delegation has identified … a firm rejection of the recent unfortunate violence from all sectors [of Venezuelan society engaged in meetings with UNASUR], condemning any attempt to disrupt the democratic order and a commitment to respect all human rights,” the UNASUR delegation stated in a report released this afternoon.
The visiting group urged all parties to respect the constitution, “moderate” their language and refrain from violence. It also commended President Nicolas Maduro for “openness and willingness” to accept recommendations from the regional body.
However, the delegation warned that paramilitary groups could be backing anti-government violence in the western state of Tachira. The state has been one of the worst hit areas in the country by a wave of political violence.
Two army battalions were deployed to quell violence in Tachira last month, after the state capital of San Cristobal had been brought to a standstill by opposition roadblocks.
The report on peace talks is the result of a two-day visit to Venezuela by the UNASUR delegation, which arrived in Caracas on Tuesday. The international group was comprised of foreign ministers from the 12-nation regional organisation. Delegates held meetings with the government, opposition parties and social movements. A full list of meetings will be published on the UNASUR website in the coming hours, according to the report.
UNASUR voted to send a delegation to Venezuela on 12 March, during a meeting in Santiago, Chile. The objective of the visit was to “accompany, support and advise a broad and constructive political dialogue in the country,” according to today’s report.
The last of the delegation’s meetings was with Maduro in Miraflores Palace on Wednesday night.
Venezuelan foreign minister Elias Jaua told state media the president welcomed the talks.
“President Nicolas Maduro appreciated the effort and dedication of the foreign ministers to meet with the widest range of social, economic [and] ecological sectors, students, human rights organisations and political parties,” Jaua stated.
According to Vice President Jorge Arreaza the delegation was “without restriction or condition with all those who it wishes to meet”, including opposition groups.
On Tuesday night, the UNASUR delegation met with Venezuela’s largest opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD).
Ending around midnight, the delegation’s meeting with MUD leaders lasted more than three hours. Following the meeting, MUD head Ramon Guillermo Aveledo told private media the talks had been productive.
“We told them what we have told the country – that we, as democrats, are always prepared for a respectful dialogue, on an equal footing, which may be witnessed by the whole nation,” Aveledo stated.
So far, the MUD has boycotted government sponsored peace conferences, claiming the initiative lacks transparency. Although the conferences have been supported by the Organisation of American States (OAS), the MUD has set preconditions for negotiations including the release of all detained opposition supporters, the use of a presidential broadcast called a cadena, reductions in crime and the elimination food scarcity.
This week, Aveledo also reiterated previous calls for a “bona fide third party” arbiter, and a “thorough report on the issue of human rights”.
Maduro recently declared an official human rights commission will be formed to handle allegations of human rights violations, including claims of abuse by government security forces, which have been accused of involvement in at least five deaths.
Earlier this week Attorney General Ortega stated that around 60 cases of human rights violations are currently under investigation. 15 officials have been detained in connection to possible human rights violations, according to Ortega. However, government’s ombudswoman has accused human rights organisations of exaggerating abuses for political purposes.
Along with investigating options for political dialogue, the Venezuelan government requested the UNASUR delegation hold an economic commission. Earlier this week, Ecuador’s foreign minister Ricardo Patino tweeted that “all business sectors were represented” during economic talks this week. Venezuela’s largest food producer the Polar Company, and agricultural and construction business groups joined government backed conferences.
Arreaza stated today that the UNASUR delegation approved of state sponsored talks.
“They left with a good impression of the economic conference for peace,” Arreaza stated.
The UNASUR delegation also met with student groups along with the pro-government coalition, the Grand Patriotic Poll (GPP).
However, UNASUR’s commission has been criticised by member states Colombia and Paraguay.
Earlier this week, Colombia’s foreign minister María Angela Holguin called on UNASUR’s pro-tempore president Suriname to include “more parties in the dialogue”.
“We believe that the agenda should be wider,” Paraguayan foreign minister Eladio Loizaga stated, according to EFE.
US Threatens Sanctions Again
After the UNASUR delegation concluded its visit to Venezuela, today the United States issued new threats against the Maduro government. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson stated that sanctions against Venezuela could become an “important tool”, according to the Associated Press.
“If there is no movement, no possibility of dialogue, if there’s no democratic space for the opposition, obviously we have to think about this, and we are thinking about this,” Jacobson stated.
The US official stated Washington would work with regional allies to enforce sanctions, if they are used.
Secretary of State John Kerry made similar threats in Washington on 12 March, warning that Obama administration is “prepared” to invoke the charter of the Organisation of American States (OAS) and impose sanctions.
However, just days before Kerry threatened to invoke the OAS charter, the OAS itself issued a statement ruling out intervention or any sanctions on Venezuela, and expressing solidarity with the Maduro government. 29 OAS member states voted in favour of the decision, while the US, Canada and Panama were the only dissenting votes.