CARACAS – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Friday that this week’s talks in the Dominican Republic between representatives of his government and leaders of the MUD opposition coalition were a success.
“After entire weeks of conversation, we are close to an accord of political co-existence, of peace and sovereignty, between the Venezuela delegation and the Venezuelan opposition. We are very close,” the leftist president said in a broadcast address.
He expressed gratitude to Dominican President Danilo Medina for offering to host the discussions in Santo Domingo, as well as to former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for acting as mediators.
The establishment of the dialogue is a “historic achievement,” Maduro said, promising that his administration will send a delegation to the next exploratory session, set for Sept. 27.
He went on, however, to describe MUD’s account of the two days of talks in Santo Domingo as “full of lies.”
In a statement issued Thursday night, MUD said its representatives had insisted that any accord reached would have to be submitted to a referendum.
MUD also said that the conversations included references to the necessity of the participation of third countries and multilateral institutions to act as guarantors of any eventual agreement.
While Venezuelan politics have been dominated for nearly 20 years by Maduro and his mentor and predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, the tide appeared to turn when the opposition won a big majority in the December 2015 National Assembly elections.
But the Supreme Court, which is made up of Maduro appointees, stripped the legislature of its budgetary authority last year, saying it was in contempt for seating lawmakers accused of electoral fraud.
The crisis has only deepened in 2017.
Opposition-led protests stemming in part from a high court decision in March (one that was quickly reversed) to seize the legislature’s remaining powers led to more than 100 deaths and prompted Maduro’s government to call for the creation of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) to rewrite the constitution.
Maduro says the all-powerful body is needed to bring peace to oil-rich Venezuela and resolve its severe economic woes, but the opposition and much of the international community say it will be used to strip away all vestiges of democracy in the country.