Venezuelan Opposition Sets New Conditions for Dialogue with Government

Among the preconditions is a demand for the inclusion of the Vatican and the OAS as mediators as well as a timetable for the recall referendum to be held this year.

By LUCAS KOERNER
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MUD General Secretary Jesus Torrealba. (Noticias 24)
MUD General Secretary Jesus Torrealba. (Noticias 24)

Philadelphia, July 8, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s right-wing opposition coalition, the MUD, unveiled Thursday a new set of preconditions for dialogue with the Maduro government.

On Wednesday, President Nicolas Maduro refloated an invitation for exploratory talks with the opposition aimed at finding a solution to the South American country’s ongoing political standoff. 

The head of state urged for the dialogue to take place immediately and without preconditions, endorsing a public offer by Dominican President Danilo Medina for the talks to be held in the Caribbean nation.

MUD General Secretary Jesus Torrealba responded to the president’s invitation to relaunch talks with a new series of preconditions.

In addition to mediation by a UNASUR team comprised of Jose Rodriguez Zapatero, Leonel Fernandez, and Martin Torrijos– the ex-presidents of Spain, the Dominican Republic, and Panama– the head of the right-wing coalition requested the inclusion of the Vatican, the Organization of American States (OAS), as well as more ex-presidents in the negotiations process.

Second, Torrealba reiterated the opposition’s demand that the nation’s electoral authority, the CNE, release a timetable for a recall referendum against President Maduro.

“The recall [referendum] is not negotiable, it’s a constitutional right,” he stated.

This call has proven a point of tension between the Maduro government and the opposition, who have both blamed each other for stalling the complex series of procedures required to trigger a recall referendum this year.

The opposition leader also restated a demand for the national government to “respect” the laws passed by the opposition-controlled parliament, accusing the former of “aggression”.

Leading opposition legislators have condemned the nation’s Supreme Court for striking down numerous laws passed by the newly-elected parliament. The Maduro government, for its part, has denounced the new laws as efforts to overthrow the constitutional order, pointing to the controversial Amnesty Law as well as a constitutional amendment seeking to retroactively shorten the president’s term by two years.

Furthermore, Torrealba conditioned the prospective talks on the government’s willingness to immediately free all those it says have been “illegitimately arrested” by authorities since the arrival of the ex-presidents on May 19. During the previous effort to reconvene talks last month, the MUD had demanded as a precondition the freeing of all of those it considers “political prisoners”, which include hard right leaders convicted of planning acts of terrorist violence such as Lorent Saleh. 

Lastly, Torrealba thanked the Dominican president for his offer to hold the talks to be held in Santo Domingo, but expressed his coalition’s strong preference for the meeting to be held elsewhere. 

Notwithstanding the preconditions, the opposition leader indicated that the opposition would be willing to sit down to dialogue this coming week. 

“The MUD is disposed to attend the first meeting of an authentic national dialogue beginning on July 12,” he confirmed.

The overtures to dialogue on the part of the Maduro government and the opposition over the past two months have been welcomed by a range of international actors, including most recently US Secretary of State John Kerry, the OAS Permanent Council, UNASUR, as well as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The first indirect talks were initiated by a Union of South American Nations commission headed by Zapatero, Fernandez, and Torrjos, who held numerous separate meetings with both sides, although no direct talks have yet been successfully convened.

Socialist party leader Jorge Rodriguez, for his part, welcomed the opposition’s willingness to sit down for talks, but staunchly rejected the right-wing coalition’s preconditions.

“We are going to sit down without preconditions of any kind and with the spirit of peace we firmly demand that the right-wing halt its discourse of hate, its call to violence, and end its calls for intervention and interference by imperialist elements in the affairs that only concern Venezuelans,” he declared during his weekly television program “Politics on the Divan”.

Last month, at the behest of the Venezuelan opposition, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro motioned for a meeting to evaluate the possible application of the body’s Democratic Charter against Venezuela, which could lead to the South American nation’s ejection.