SANTO DOMINGO – The Venezuelan government and opposition initiated on Friday a new dialogue in the Dominican capital, following the failed attempts in recent years to find a solution to the South American country’s grave political and economic crisis.
The negotiations, which will go on until Saturday, are being held behind closed doors at the Foreign Ministry under the auspices of Dominican President Danilo Medina and former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
The Dominican government has expressed optimism about these new conversations in which Venezuela’s MUD opposition coalition is taking part, even though its members are divided on the matter, since there are anti-Chavista leaders like Maria Corina Machado and Antonio Ledezma who oppose the talks, considering them a nefarious strategy of the Nicolas Maduro government.
As agreed by both sides, this new attempt at dialogue will have the participation of foreign ministers from several countries of the Americas as observers.
On hand for the conference are Foreign Ministers Heraldo Muñoz from Chile, Dennis Moncada from Nicaragua, and Luis Videgaray from Mexico, as well as Bolivian Cabinet Minister Carlos Romero and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Finance Minister Camilo Gonsalves, Dominican Foreign Ministry officials told EFE.
The opposition has said that its principal demands in the dialogue are the opening of a humanitarian channel to permit the entry of food and medicines, a change in the composition of the National Electoral Council (CNE), the release of those in custody considered political prisoners, and the restoration of constitutional powers that have been divested from the National Assembly legislature.
Before the meeting, National Assembly Speaker Julio Borges, who heads the opposition delegation at the negotiating table, said “the agenda is focused on being able to reach immediate solutions to the problems of food and medicine supplies, establishing free and independent elections, and the freeing of political prisoners without exceptions.”
Present for the Venezuelan government to “develop a dialogue for peace” are Communications and Culture Minister Jorge Rodriguez, Education Minister Elias Jaua, diplomat Roy Chaderton, and the speaker of the ruling party’s National Constituent Assembly, Delcy Rodriguez.