Caracas, November 14th 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s government and the MUD opposition coalition have reached a five-point agreement plan to “normalise the constitutional relationship” between the two sides and pave the way for further negotiations.
News of the accords was made public by Vatican mediator Archbishop Claudio María Celli on Saturday following a second round of dialogue between the two opposing sides earlier in the day.
“The gestures that have been reached allow us to anticipate that the (dialogue) process is being strengthened and consolidated,” stated Celli.
The treaty is the most extensive set of accords to have been reached since Vatican-mediated national dialogue began on October 30th in response to a political stalemate between the leftwing government and the opposition majority in Congress.
In the economic arena, the government and opposition agreed to “work together to combat all forms of sabotage, boycott or attack against the Venezuelan economy” and to take short-term measures to guarantee the supply of food and medicines.
Both sides also agreed to design a series of policies to aid cooperation efforts between the public and private sectors to “monitor, tax and control” the acquisition and distribution of goods.
The public statement is the first time that the MUD has officially accepted the government’s assertions that it is the victim of an economic boycott.
In another initiative aimed at alleviating political tensions, the government pledged to put pressure on the National Electoral Council (CNE) to resolve the ongoing suspension of three opposition legislators pending investigations into vote buying and other irregularities in the December 2015 legislative elections.
The three lawmakers were catapulted to the centre of the unfolding political stand-off after they were sworn in illegally by Congress in August in violation of a Supreme Court order. The executive and judicial branches of government have argued that the act rendered any decisions subsequently approved by the National Assembly as void.
In another agreement relating to the CNE, the government and opposition agreed to jointly nominate replacements for two of the electoral body’s deans whose terms will expire in December of this year.
Both political factions also confirmed their “unanimous position in defence of the legitimate and inalienable rights of Venezuela over the Essequibo” in the country’s territorial dispute with neighbouring Guyana, and released an official joint-declaration entitled “Living Together in Peace”.
A Monitoring Commission led by former Spanish president and chief mediator in the talks, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, will also be set-up to ensure that the pledges are carried out. Meanwhile a state governor from each side, as well as different civil society groups, will be invited to future talks.
Opposition divisions deepen
The five point plan was signed by three out of the four principal parties in the MUD known as the “Group of Four” (G4), which includes the Justice First party, Democratic Action, a New Era, and the Popular Will party.
Nonetheless, the Popular Will (VP) upheld its commitment to boycotting the dialogue with the government, in spite of the position adopted by the other G4 parties.
Following Saturday’s announcement, VP immediately released a statement rejecting the agreement and claiming that “only the streets and the defence of the Constitution by the National Assembly will generate the conditions to achieve real change in the short term”.
The MUD has been traditionally divided over strategies to remove the government from power and has become increasingly fragmented over whether to participate in the recent dialogue.
“The document released by Popular Will against dialogue is irresponsible because it says things which aren’t true,” hit back opposition mayor Carlos Oscariz for the Justice First party.
Oscariz also accused the far-right party of using the presidential recall referendum that was paused by electoral authorities last month as an excuse to sabotage the talks.
“I won’t accept that those who didn’t even walk a block for the recall referendum, now claim to be its widows” he stated.
Meanwhile a group of fifteen smaller parties in the MUD accused the G4 of having “appropriated” the direction of the coalition.
“The G4 is making all the mistakes in the book,” said Haydée Deutsch of the Liberal Force party, who labelled the agreed five point plan as “a string of errors”.
Deutsch also confirmed that the smaller parties had contacted the Vatican directly through several emissaries, including rightwing hardliner Maria Corina Machado, “so that they have a panorama of what the opposition means in Venezuela and what the MUD means”.
The public infighting appears to have tarnished the coalition’s reputation with potential voters. A poll released by independent think tank Hinterlaces in early November found that 66% of respondents agreed that the coalition is “very divided” while 77% thought that “new people were needed” to lead the opposition.