Mérida, September 16, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government unveiled a series of agreements with opposition factions on Monday.
The agreements of the so-called National Roundtable for Peaceful Dialogue were announced by Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez alongside the Foreign Minister and Vice President, as well as a number of opposition leaders, and included a call for sanctions against the country to be lifted.
Major announcements included the appointment of a new electoral council and agreements on electoral guarantees, as well as the reincorporation of pro-government deputies to the National Assembly. Socialist Party and allied deputies had abandoned the body in 2016 in the wake of it being declared “null and void” by the Supreme Court. Venezuela is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections in 2020.
Other points of agreement concerned increasing efforts to resolve legal proceedings against "arrested citizens," a reaffirmation of the country’s territorial claim to the Essequibo strip and a proposed oil-for-goods program to secure food and medicine imports. No details were disclosed about the nature of these deals.
Issues such as the resolution of conflicts between the powers of state, a proportional representation electoral agreement for minorities and cooperation between the public and private sectors of the economy are scheduled for future rounds of discussion.
The opposition parties participating in the roundtable with the government were the Movement towards Socialism (MAS), ex-presidential candidate Henri Falcon’s Progressive Advance Party (AP), Solutions for Venezuela and Cambiemos. Likewise present was the Catholic Church represented by Vatican envoy Nuncio Aldo Giordano, as well as leading academics, politicians, and social leaders.
Major opposition parties, including Democratic Action, First Justice, and Juan Guaido’s Popular Will Party did not take part in the talks, nor did other pro-government parties such as the Communist Party or the Homeland for All Party. Rodriguez did, however, assure that the roundtable was open to “any political force which desires to join it.”
“The Bolivarian government maintains all of the doors open for dialogue so as to solve the differences between Venezuelans in a peaceful manner,” he told press at the Foreign Ministry’s Yellow House building in Caracas
Speaking on behalf of the opposition factions, Cambiemos Deputy Timoteo Zambrano distanced his group from calls for violent regime change from more radical opposition groups.
“We will continue to come to agreements to remove obstacles which damage our democracy, it is not an easy path (...) I oppose the use of force [and] thoughtless confrontation without a way forward,” he said.
The unexpected announcement came less than 24 hours after self-declared “Interim President” Juan Guaido ruled out further talks with the government, urging his followers to engage in a “new stage of the struggle.”
“[Talks] are exhausted,” Guaido claimed in reference to the several rounds of Norway-mediated negotiations between his team and the government, first in Oslo and later in Barbados.
In a written communiqué, the opposition leader claimed that any hopes of a peaceful resolution of the standoff were finished, stating that “[the government] is the main obstacle for a peaceful way out of this crisis.”
On Monday, he also made public the proposal allegedly taken to the Barbados talks, which centered around Maduro’s resignation as president, Guaido’s resignation as “interim president,” and the formation of a Council of State until elections were held. He made no mention of the National Roundtable for Peaceful Dialogue.
President Maduro had suspended the government’s participation in the dialogue on August 7 following Washington’s imposition of a general embargo.
Following a recent scandal in which Guaido representatives appeared to argue for bargaining off Venezuela’s historic claim to the Essequibo strip in exchange of greater political support from the UK, Maduro conditioned further talks on the opposition “rectifying” this position.
Guaido is currently facing a number of criminal investigations for embezzlement, treason, and most recently for his connections with Colombia paramilitary groups.
OAS activates TIAR treaty mechanisms
Guaido also highlighted the importance of the activation of the Inter-American Reciprocal Assistance Treaty (TIAR) by the Organisation of American States (OAS) on Wednesday as one of the elements used to “pressure” the Maduro government.
The convening of the consultations body of the TIAR treaty was approved by twelve OAS members after being proposed by Colombia. The resolution argues that Caracas poses “a clear threat to peace and security in the region.”
Also known as the Rio Pact, the 1947 treaty has been invoked several times in the past, including in support of the US naval blockade against Cuba during the 1962 Missile Crisis.
Venezuela withdrew from the treaty alongside regional allies in 2012. However, the opposition-controlled National Assembly approved the Caribbean country’s reincorporation in July this year, a decision which the Supreme Court quickly nullified.
Following the OAS’ decision, a meeting of foreign ministers of the sixteen TIAR signatories is scheduled later this month on the margins of the annual UN General Assembly. The next step of the TIAR activation will “agree on measures for [the participants'] common defence and the maintenance of peace and security on the continent.”
The latest developments were staunchly rejected by Caracas, with a Foreign Office statement clarifying that Venezuela “does not accept nor recognise any obligation deriving [from the TIAR treaty].”
“It is painful to see how countries which were invaded by US troops and whose people were massacred in the application of the TIAR today back a similar crime against a fellow country,” the statement reads.
The move was also rejected by sectors of the opposition, with former presidential candidate Henri Falcon calling it irresponsible, and by a number of social movements and regional governments, including Nicaragua, Cuba, Mexico and Uruguay.
In a written statement, Uruguay’s Foreign Minister claimed that the move “looks to legitimise an armed intervention [against Venezuela]” while Nicaragua’s president, Daniel Ortega, claimed that it “raises the axe of war” in the region.
The increased threat of military action against Venezuela comes as Caracas holds military exercises along the Colombian border this month, in which 150,000 soldiers will participate.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Caracas.