Dialogue between Venezuelan Government and Opposition Reaches First Agreements

Dialogue between government and opposition representatives continued in Caracas last night, seeing the opposition coalition condemn violence, but no agreement reached on their demand to release those arrested for it.

By Tamara Pearson

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Government and MUD representatives talking to the press late last night after the dialogue (AVN)
Government and MUD representatives talking to the press late last night after the dialogue (AVN)
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Merida, 16th April 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) –Dialogue between government and opposition representatives continued in Caracas last night, seeing the opposition coalition condemn violence, but no agreement reached on their demand to release those arrested for it.

The current dialogue began last Thursday. The opening discussion was broadcast live, but last night’s four hours of talks were private. The talks are being attended by a papal representative and foreign ministers from Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador.

President Maduro had been calling for general dialogue, as well as with specific sectors such as the students, after violent opposition sectors began blockading key streets in some cities on 12 February. Until now, 41 people have been killed, the majority as a direct result of the blockades and blockade participants, and a few by security forces during violent protests. Until last Thursday, a few individual opposition leaders eventually attended some of the peace conferences, but the remaining opposition sectors refused Maduro’s proposal for dialogue.

After the Peace Dialogue yesterday, representatives from the government and the opposition talked to the press. They said they discussed the National Pacification Plan, the Truth Commission, and ratifying committees to examine postulations to the public powers; electoral and judicial, in order to cover current vacancies. They also discussed the agenda for the dialogues, as well as dates, and the overall process and working methods.

Representatives also discussed assigning a medical commission to evaluate the state of health of Ivan Simonovis, who was arrested in 2009 for his involvement in the 2002 short lived coup.

Vice-president Arreaza welcomed that “one of the first agreements reached with the opposition representatives was to fully respect the constitution and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and to reject violence, wherever it comes from”.

“The truth is the path to justice and peace,” Arreaza said. This second meeting “was held on good terms, with respect, with tolerance... we’re advancing in a positive way,” he stated.

He also announced that the national government had approved 148 “special projects” for 74 mayoralties and states administered by the opposition, for a total of Bs 1 billion. “It’s a gesture that we can work together, that we can agree on the big problems facing the nation,” he said, explaining that the proposals for the projects were made by the opposition leaders to the president last Friday.

Opposition response to yesterday’s dialogue

General Secretary of the opposition coalition, the MUD, Ramon Aveledo, said the dialogue process had allowed representatives to “advance in the commitment to create working groups in order to advance in the study and preparation of decisions in some areas”.

He also “rejected... without a doubt, any manifestation of, or forms of violence”.

On the Pacification Plan, Aveledo said, “We’re going to study this plan, contribute to it and enrich it, with the support of our experts in the areas of security, prevention, and criminal punishment”. He said opposition governors and mayors had expressed willingness to “coordinate and participate” in national planes to promote security and peace.

Aveledo said that his side had proposed the Truth Commission be headed by people who promote “credibility” for the country, and he said once it was formed, the MUD would present “60 cases” of alleged torture.  The aim of the truth commission is to evaluate the recent cases of violence as a result of opposition barricades. Aveledo said the opposition proposed that it be “independent of the public powers”.

Finally, Aveledo said the opposition had pushed for an amnesty law – one of their key proposals. The MUD presented a list with around a hundred people arrested for their involvement in violence, including for murder, assisting murder, and destruction of public property, but who they called “political prisoners”, including opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. The proposal was not accepted, and Aveledo said they would “look for other ways”.

Attending the dialogue on behalf of the government was vice-president Jorge Arreaza, foreign minister Elias Jaua, first combatant (wife of president Maduro) Cilia Flores, Caracas mayor Jorge Rodriguez, legislator Dario Rivas, and communications minister Delcy Rodriguez.

For the opposition, along with Aveledo, legislators Julio Borges, Edgar Zambrano and Miguel Pizarro attended, as well as Latin American Parliament representatives Delsa Solorzano and Francisco Garcia, and the COPEI party head, Roberto Enriquez.

Vice-president Jorge Arreaza said the third meeting of the dialogue will be held next week and will focus on “advancing in justice without impunity”.

Voluntad Popular (VP – Popular Will) refuses to participate

The Voluntad Popular (VP) party, one of the more conservative opposition parties, has so far refused to participate in the dialogue.  It was one of the key parties to have openly promoted the last two months of violent barricades, with two of its leaders; Leopoldo Lopez and former mayor Daniel Ceballos, currently in prison for supporting or encouraging the violence.

David Smolansky, VP member and mayor of El Hatillo, said the “conditions aren’t right” for the party’s participation. He also said the main reason they weren’t participating was because Lopez and Ceballos are in prison.