Mérida, September 6, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government and opposition fractions held a second round of negotiations in Mexico City over the weekend.
The four-day talks were reportedly mediated by Mexico, Norway, the Netherlands and Russia, and build on a “constructive” initial workgroup established in August, in which both parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding.
On Monday evening, government representative Jorge Rodríguez announced the signing of two “partial agreements,” claiming that they “had done it again in Mexico.”
The first agreement, he informed, concerned joint efforts to “defend Venezuela’s inalienable sovereignty over the [disputed] Essequibo strip” which Guaidó had allegedly offered to bargain away in exchange for political support from the UK in 2019. The second one was to “defend Venezuela’s economy” and increase social coverage for the Venezuelan people, especially in the fight against Covid-19 and hunger. Rodríguez suggested that funds for social coverage would come from the liberation of frozen or seized Venezuelan assets abroad. A joint communique released by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry stated that the parties would look to secure access to the IMF's Special Drawing Rights (SDR).
Finally, the lawmaker announced that dialogue will resume between September 24 and 27 and will address the rule of law, among other issues.
The negotiations bring together representatives of the hardline Guaidó opposition backed by Washington under the banner of the so-called “Unitary Platform,” and the Nicolás Maduro government. More moderate opposition sectors and leftwing government opponents were not invited.
The latest round also included Guaidó ally Freddy Guevara, who was granted house arrest in exchange for prison time on terrorism charges following the initial talks. Guevara replaced Guaidó’s US representative Carlos Vecchio who withdrew after the government reportedly “requested his exclusion” from the delegation. Vecchio has spearheaded efforts to seize Venezuela’s US-based oil subsidiary CITGO and a number of other Venezuelan assets, including Citibank accounts. He likewise led the forcible takeover of Venezuela’s embassy building in Washington DC.
For his part, Maduro explained that he considers the negotiations to be indirectly held with the Biden administration.
“When we sit down at the table [in Mexico], we understand that we are sitting down with the US government because they [the Unitary Platform] are politicians who are dependent on the US,” he said in an interview on Sunday.
“The extreme opposition has caused plenty of damage to Venezuelan families, including in the robbing of CITGO, the kidnapping of more than US $8 billion in foreign bank accounts and the seizing of the gold stored in the Bank of England,” Maduro went on to state, while adding that there will be no “impunity.”
For his part, Guaidó claimed to have instructed his team to “fight for electoral guarantees” to hold new presidential and legislative elections. The head of the opposition’s delegation, Gerardo Blyde, however, told reporters that “initial humanitarian agreements” are being prioritized. The former lawmaker also highlighted that the opposition’s agenda includes returning “democratic institutional order” to Venezuela.
Apart from Guevara’s conditional liberation and the Memorandum of Understanding, the first round of talks led to hardline opposition parties announcing their participation in the upcoming November regional and local elections. In the contests, hard-right candidates will compete with both government candidates as well as “moderate” opposition ones and those of the leftwing Popular Revolutionary Alternative (APR). It is the first time US-backed opposition groups have participated in elections since 2017.
The latest dialogue effort follows failed initiatives in 2019 in both Norway and Barbados, with government representatives walking away after the US imposed new wide-reaching sanctions. Likewise, in 2017-8, opposition leaders abandoned the negotiating table in the Dominican Republic reportedly after then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson phoned lead negotiator Julio Borges.
Talks with more moderate opposition factions, including former presidential candidates Henri Falcón and Javier Bertucci and the Chamber of Business and Commerce (FEDECAMARAS) and of Industry (FEDEINDUSTRIA), led to increased participation in the December 2020 parliamentary elections, electoral guarantees, and the release of a number of detained anti-government activists.
While the Mexico negotiations have the backing of Washington, Canada and the European Union, they have, however, generated criticism within Venezuela from both grassroots opposition and revolutionary sectors.
While right-wingers accuse the Guaidó leadership of capitulating to government demands, the Communist Party of Venezuela released a statement in which it coins the talks as a “pact” between “the two most important fractions of the bourgeoisie,” comparing it to the 1958 Punto Fijo Pact.
“Both the government and rightist opposition coincide in the current neoliberal economic reforms of price liberation, de facto dollarization, privatization, handing over public companies and land to private capital and landowners, tax breaks, the opening of the oil sector to private capital and the destruction of wages and deregulation of labor rights, as well as important promises to national and foreign capital such the Special Economic Zones,” the statement read.
“This is why the working class and campesinos cannot be tricked by the bourgeoisie’s talks in Mexico. Our interests and needs are not on the agenda,” it concluded.
For his part, PCV candidate for Caracas’ Libertador mayorship, Eduardo Samán, also slammed the negotiations in Mexico, claiming that “administrative proceedings [against opposition politicians charged with a number of crimes] are being erased in Mexico to allow them to participate in the ‘mega-election.’” Samán’s bid to run in November was blocked by the National Electoral Council on Sunday after he was barred from running “overnight” for unexplained reasons. The PCV and APR issued a public denouncement and vowed to challenge the decision, as well as convening Caracas’ “revolutionary forces” to protest the “censorship.”