Caracas, November 2, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s right-wing opposition coalition, the MUD, announced Tuesday the suspension of its march on Miraflores presidential palace as well as the postponement of its “political trial” against President Nicolas Maduro.
The sharp U-turn on the part of MUD leaders follows the initiation of Vatican-mediated talks between the opposition and the Maduro government on Sunday. On Monday, Maduro approved the release of five jailed opposition militants in a good will gesture aimed at easing tensions.
Reportedly in response to a petition by the Vatican, National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup announced Tuesday the cancelation of the MUD’s much-anticipated march on Miraflores planned for Thursday, which would have been the first time the opposition marched on the presidential palace since the April 11, 2002 coup that ousted President Chávez for 47 hours.
“The Vatican has requested that the marches be suspended on both sides, and we think it’s sensible to comply in order to avoid any confrontations and so the dialogue process isn’t tarnished,” the Democratic Action leader stated, following a majority vote in favor of the move in Congress.
Last week, the MUD convened massive nationwide protests that ignited fresh anti-government violence, leaving one police officer killed and dozens more wounded at the hands of demonstrators.
Meanwhile, the opposition-majority parliament also revealed Tuesday that it would be temporarily shelving a “political trial” proceeding against President Maduro.
Widely viewed as a Brazil-style parliamentary coup attempt, the procedure has sparked outrage from government supporters, who stormed the National Assembly on October 23 in protest.
“In order to give the Vatican time regarding the demands we have outlined, we want to postpone discussion of points 1 and 2 for today,” declared MUD majority leader Julio Borges in reference to the legislature’s scheduled discussion of the controversial “political trial” measure.
Maduro, for his part, saluted the decisions by the MUD, which he attributed to the success of dialogue efforts.
“I celebrate as a result of the dialogue process that the opposition has taken sensible decisions. As I said on Sunday, I hold out my hand to the MUD,” the head of state affirmed during his weekly television program “In Contact with Maduro”.
In a further sign of good will, the Venezuelan government released two more opposition activists on Tuesday afternoon. Pablo Parada and Jean Carlos Ortiz, both student leaders from the radical anti-government stronghold of Tachira state, were detained in the course of opposition protests in September.
Opposition fracture widens
Despite being welcomed by the government as a step towards easing tensions, the latest moves by the MUD have, however, provoked further fissures within an already divided opposition.
Maria Corina Machado, hard right leader of the Vente Venezuela party, slammed the decision by other parties of the MUD to backtrack on Thursday’s march and the political trial against Maduro.
“There’s NO march on Miraflores, NO trial against Maduro, NO recall referendum. So there’s NO regime change in 2016. YES there’s anger. It’s an error by the MUD,” she tweeted Tuesday evening.
“These are not moments to cede, these are moments to advance,” she added.
The ultra-right Popular Will (VP) party also expressed its “disagreement” with the decisions and initially promised its followers that it would proceed with the march regardless. However on Wednesday the party changed its position, pledging to respect the MUD consensus.
“If by November 12, Maduro doesn’t respect the constitution and the right to choose, we will go to Miraflores,” the party stated via its official twitter account, referring to the date of the next round of dialogue between the government and the opposition.
On Sunday, VP led 15 other parties of the coalition in boycotting the Vatican-mediated talks, citing “a lack of conditions for dialogue”.
US envoy arrives, meets with Maduro and MUD
The dialogue comes as Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon touched down in Caracas on Sunday to meet with representatives of the government and opposition.
Following a closed door meeting with the president, Shannon sat down with opposition leaders in the US embassy.
“We spoke with Shannon about all matters of national interest. The US backs the option of dialogue in Venezuela,” revealed MUD General Secretary Jesus Torrealba.
In past months, Shannon has made several visits to Venezuela in a bid to ease tensions between the two countries, which have been on the rise since the Obama administration renewed an executive order labeling Venezuela a “national security threat” in March.