Maduro ac­cepts talks of­fer with Venezuela op­po­si­tion

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro said Tues­day his govern­ment was pre­pared to meet the op­po­si­tion for talks, of­fer­ing a glimpse of a break­through in a po­lit­i­cal stand­off marked by months of deadly protests. Maduro made the sur­prise an­nounce­ment in a tele­vised cab­i­net meet­ing in Caracas. He told his min­is­ters he would ac­cept to un­der­take talks bro­kered by Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic Pres­i­dent Danilo Me­d­ina and ex-Span­ish premier Jose Luis Ro­driguez Za­p­a­tero.

“Za­p­a­tero and Pres­i­dent Me­d­ina know very well that I have been a pro­moter of this di­a­logue and I ac­cept this new day of di­a­logue,” Maduro said. Maduro ap­pointed in­flu­en­tial Caracas politi­cian Jorge Ro­driguez as his rep­re­sen­ta­tive at the talks, and said he would leave for the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic “in the next few hours.” The op­po­si­tion an­nounced in turn that it held an ex­ploratory meet­ing yes­ter­day with the Do­mini­can pres­i­dent. How­ever, it in­sisted it did not mean it was the be­gin­ning of for­mal talks with the govern­ment.

“The time for sym­bolic ges­tures is over,” the op­po­si­tion coali­tion Demo­cratic Unity Roundtable said. “To en­ter into se­ri­ous ne­go­ti­a­tion, we de­mand im­me­di­ate ac­tions that demon­strate a real will­ing­ness to re­solve the na­tional prob­lems and not to win time,” it said. Oil-rich Venezuela is fac­ing a grow­ing eco­nomic cri­sis that has caused short­ages of food and medicine as it faces the prospect of de­fault to its Rus­sian and Chi­nese cred­i­tors Maduro had to weather fall­ing oil prices and a wave of op­po­si­tion protests that left 125 peo­ple dead be­tween April and July.

Lat­est at­tempt

Me­d­ina and Za­p­a­tero will hope their ef­forts to find a so­lu­tion in Venezuela

are more fruit­ful than those of the Vat­i­can and the Union of South Amer­i­can Na­tions who bro­kered the last meet­ing be­tween the two sides in Oc­to­ber last year. Those talks broke up a month later with the op­po­si­tion ac­cus­ing the govern­ment of fail­ing to ad­here to ear­lier agree­ments to free po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers and pre­pare elec­tions. United Na­tions Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res ex­pressed his “full sup­port” for the ini­tia­tive, stress­ing that the Venezue­lan cri­sis re­quires a “po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion based on di­a­logue.”

In­ter­na­tional pow­ers ac­cuse Maduro of dis­man­tling democ­racy by tak­ing over state in­sti­tu­tions in or­der to re­sist op­po­si­tion pres­sure for him to quit, amid an eco­nomic cri­sis that has caused short­ages of food and medicine. They ac­cused him of a bla­tant power grab in July af­ter the for­ma­tion of a Con­stituent As­sem­bly packed with his al­lies which su­per­seded the op­po­si­tion-dom­i­nated na­tional as­sem­bly. The op­po­si­tion had re­fused to par­tic­i­pate in the elec­tion of mem­bers of the Con­stituent As­sem­bly, but de­cided to con­test re­gional polls set for Oc­to­ber.

Ear­lier, French For­eign Min­is­ter JeanYves Le Drian raised the pos­si­bil­ity of a re­sump­tion of talks in the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic. In a state­ment pub­lished af­ter his meet­ing with Venezue­lan For­eign Min­is­ter Jorge Ar­reaza Montser­rat, Le Drian wel­comed what he called “good news,” ex­press­ing hope the move would “re­sult very quickly in con­crete ges­tures on the ground.” French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron said last week that he con­sid­ered Maduro to be “a dic­ta­tor.”—AFP

CARACAS: This file photo shows Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro, right, speak­ing next to for­mer pres­i­dent of Span­ish govern­ment Jose Luis Ro­driguez Za­p­a­tero, left, and for­mer pres­i­dent of Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic Leonel Fer­nan­dez, cen­ter, at the end of a meet­ing in the Pres­i­den­tial Palace in Caracas.—AFP

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