Government Makes Dialogue Call as Venezuelan Opposition Considers Next Step

Venezuelan authorities have made a renewed offer to the opposition to join dialogue talks while the opposition’s leadership considers their next move following the dissipation of protests.

By Ewan Robertson

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On Thursday Venezuelan Vice President Jorge Arreaza said that despite repeated calls for the opposition’s Democratic Unity Table (MUD) to join dialogue talks to resolve differences “within the constitution”, the MUD had yet to accept the invitation. (archive)
On Thursday Venezuelan Vice President Jorge Arreaza said that despite repeated calls for the opposition’s Democratic Unity Table (MUD) to join dialogue talks to resolve differences “within the constitution”, the MUD had yet to accept the invitation. (archive)

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Opposition leader Henrique Capriles has continued to call for expressions of protest, repeating his argument on Wednesday that the opposition could “channel” discontent over the economy into a force capable of defeating the government at the next opportunity. (El Universal)
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles has continued to call for expressions of protest, repeating his argument on Wednesday that the opposition could “channel” discontent over the economy into a force capable of defeating the government at the next opportunity. (El Universal)
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Mérida, 11th July 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan authorities have renewed their offer to the opposition to join dialogue talks while the opposition’s leadership considers their next move following the dissipation of protests.

On Thursday Venezuelan vice president Jorge Arreaza said that despite repeated calls for the opposition’s Democratic Unity Table (MUD) to join dialogue talks to resolve differences “within the constitution”, the MUD had yet to accept the invitation.

Talks began in April during a wave of deadly anti-government protests and militant street barricades, but were frozen by the MUD a month later after the opposition coalition claimed that their “conditions” for dialogue had not been met, such as the release of opposition politicians jailed for their role in the unrest.

Nevertheless Arreaza stated yesterday that MUD figures could still incorporate themselves into talks. “We’ve proposed the possibility of not just incorporating the opposition [into talks], but all sectors of Venezuelan society,” he said to national media.

The comments were made as a hard-line opposition group tried to re-start protests yesterday in the wealthy east side of the capital Caracas. The small group employed “guarimba” street tactics, blocking a main avenue with trash and other objects.

The militants were reportedly armed with Molotov cocktails, explosive powder, and metal road spikes. National Guard officers dispersed the group using pellets and tear gas, local residents tweeted.

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro criticised the incident last night during a national broadcast, referring to the street barricaders as “out of date” people who “haven’t realised that they’ve already been defeated”.

The wave of opposition unrest from February to April this year left 43 dead and over 800 wounded. Fatalities included opposition activists, government supporters, other civilians, and National Guard officers.

The unrest began after hard-line opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado launched a strategy of street actions called “The Exit”. While the opposition argued that the largely middle and upper class protests were provoked by problems with crime and the economy, authorities pointed to coordinated street barricades as evidence that the strategy was an attempt to oust President Maduro from office.

Two opposition mayors were given 10 ½ and 12 month jail sentences for their role in supporting the street barricades, while hard-line leader Leopoldo Lopez is to face trial on 23 July for incitement to violence, among other charges.

Arrest warrants have also been issued recently for three ardent government critics suspected of being involved in an alleged plot to assassinate Nicolas Maduro. One of them is Henry Salas Romer, a former opposition state governor.

Another of those accused, consultant Pedro Burelli, has argued that the intercepted emails which purportedly give away the alleged plot are forged. His private investigation firm, Kivu Consultancy, wrote a report in which according to their research the emails in question show “many indications of user manipulation”.

Meanwhile a group of parliamentary deputies from the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) will today denounce opposition mayor Ramon Muchacho to the Attorney General for “treason to the nation”.

Muchacho, who is mayor of the Chacao municipality of Caracas where much of the violent unrest occurred, was accused by the deputies of “distorting” events in Venezuela “to justify foreign intervention” while speaking at a forum in Madrid, Spain.

Since February, several opposition figures have participated in international forums to give their view on the situation in Venezuela and request foreign support. In response, three United States senators proposed to their government a series of human rights bills which include legal sanctions on the Venezuelan government and at least US$15 million to "defend human rights" in the country.

Future strategy

Opposition leaders are currently debating their next political move. Hard-line figures want to convoke an immediate “constitutional referendum”, while more moderate politicians have criticised this strategy as a further hasty attempt to get the democratically-elected Bolivarian government out of office.

Others, such as the mayor of the Baruta district of Caracas, Gerardo Blyde, argue that a “re-unification” of the MUD coalition is needed after a clear split in the organisation emerged during the unrest earlier this year. Such figures are more focused on beating the government in elections, with the next contest at the ballot box set to be the parliamentary elections in late 2015.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles has continued to call for expressions of protest, repeating his argument on Wednesday that the opposition could “channel” discontent over economic problems into a force capable of defeating the government at the next opportunity.

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