SANTO DOMINGO – The Venezuelan government and opposition began on Friday in Santo Domingo the second day of dialogue, looking for solutions to their country’s ongoing crisis.
Also taking part in the new round of talks are Dominican President Danilo Medina and former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero as supporters of the dialogue.
The talks are being observed by Chile and Mexico at the request of the opposition, and by Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines at the invitation of the Nicolas Maduro government.
Friday’s meeting, which like the previous ones is being held behind closed doors at the Foreign Ministry, began several hours late and was preceded by a technical meeting dealing with the six items on the agenda.
Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray is taking part in the third round of negotiations following doubts about whether Mexico would attend as an observer, after criticizing “certain decisions” taken by the Nicolas Maduro government after the previous negotiating round.
Also present is Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz, who tweeted on Thursday that “if there are no concrete, credible results this time, it will make no sense to continue,” to which the speaker of Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly, Delcy Rodriguez, said that “at the end of his term as foreign minister, he chooses to leave by the miserable back door and serve the low interests of the United States.”
Upon arriving Thursday night in Santo Domingo, Venezuelan Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said he has “the greatest expectations for reaching an accord of peaceful coexistence that will end the violence in our country.”
For his part, lawmaker Julio Borges, leader of the opposition delegation, made no statement upon his arrival.
The key points for the opposition in the dialogue are to reach electoral guarantees with a view to the 2018 presidential elections, the opening of a humanitarian channel to allow the entry of medicines and food supplies, the freeing of those who remain in prison and are considered political prisoners, and the restoration of the constitutional powers that have been stripped from the opposition-dominated National Assembly legislature.
Meanwhile, the ruling party demands the lifting of economic sanctions that have been imposed on some of its officials and the recognition of the National Constituent Assembly, a plenipotentiary branch of government made up of ruling party members only and not recognized by numerous governments.
As part of the previous round of the dialogue, 44 Venezuelan political prisoners were freed on Christmas Eve, one of the requests made by the opposition, which still demands the liberation of 200 more anti-Chavistas.