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Monday, October 24, 2016

By Jim Wyss, The Miami Herald

BOGOTA, Colombia — Venezuela’s coalition of opposition parties on Tuesday said it had agreed to an “exploratory meeting” with the government that might lead to formal talks aimed at ending the country’s two-month-long political crisis.

In a statement, Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, the executive director of the coalition known as the MUD, said his group had been informed that the government was willing to discuss their agenda and had agreed to mediation by a third party.

“In that context, we agree to … an exploratory meeting with the aim of establishing the conditions for a public dialogue with a date and hour to be determined,” Aveledo said.

The statement comes as foreign ministers of the Union of South American Nations, or Unasur, have been trying to bring both parties to the table. If the meeting does take place, it might help bring an end to anti-government protests that have left at least 39 dead on both sides of the political divide and paralyzed parts of the country.

On Monday, President Nicolas Maduro announced that he would be meeting with the MUD on Tuesday. But the opposition said that, while it favored dialogue, it needed guarantees to negotiate, including a fixed agenda, and that the meeting be mediated and televised. In prior days, the opposition had also called for the release of all “political prisoners” before sitting down at the table. It’s unclear if that condition still stands.

Since the protests began in earnest Feb. 12, the government has arrested three opposition mayors and Leopoldo Lopez, the head of the Voluntad Popular political party. More than 2,285 protesters have also been temporarily detained and 192 are still in jail, according to government figures.

While the MUD does represent an important portion of the opposition, it doesn’t speak for all of it. And it’s likely that some factions will not join the talks.

Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of metropolitan Caracas, told Union radio Tuesday that he was skeptical of the government’s intentions.

“For me, it’s one thing to engage in dialogue, and it’s another to surrender,” he said. “What does the government want? The surrender of the democratic alternative, or to open a path toward living in harmony?”

What began as student-led protests in early February to decry soaring crime and a failing economy evolved into a nationwide demonstration that has rattled the year-old Maduro administration. Maduro has accused the United States and other governments of using the protests in hopes of toppling his socialist government.

AFP Photo/Leo Ramirez

  • Dominick Vila

    I lived in Venezuela from 1946 to 1958, and I am intimately familiar with the potential of that country, its history, and the socio-economic challenges they have faced for decades and continue to struggle to overcome.
    “Chavismo” may be an offensive concept for most of us, but it is seen as a solution to the life of misery that the overwhelming majority of Venezuelans faced until it was implemented. The illiteracy rate when I lived there was 52%, today most Venezuelans can and do go to school, with a large percentage graduating from universities or trade schools. Those that lived in shacks and who had to walk one kilometer to get a pail of water from a public fountain now live in modest but adequate apartments when running water and electricity. Those who never went to a doctor because they could not afford it can now go to hospitals and clinics and get the medical care they need.
    Unfortunately, the social successes that are evident came with a price tag. Both Chavez and now Maduro have proven to be incompetent when it comes to economics and taking advantage of the huge natural wealth that exists in that country. Chavez’s Quixotic quest to become the Simon Bolivar of the 21st century relied on buying support from sister nations, such as paying off Argentina’s national death, and subsidizing the governments of Cuba and Nicaragua. Nationalizing industries and appropriating properties contributed to the flight of capital and talent. Economic mismanagement has contributed to out of control inflation and scarcity of basic goods. Last, but not least, Chavez and Maduro’s supporters – the masses that have benefited from their policies – have resorted to violence to preserve the status quo and prevent a return to an era they don’t want to remember and dread.
    The problem, from a political perspective, is that the opposition is fragmented and range from those who support ousting Maduro and a return to the old days, to those who simply want process improvements and socio-economic stability. I would not be surprised if the military intervenes, overthrows Maduro, and either takes over or calls for a general election in the not too distant future.

    • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

      Dominick, during the period when I interacted with numerous businesses in Venezuela (pre-attempted coup) one of the problems we all noted was that Chavez provided lip-service to solving the problems of the poor while actually providing little or no help to them.

      • Dominick Vila

        I am sure that was the case. Lip service, hyperbole, distortions of reality, and trying to rally the masses behind you seem to be an integral part of politics, regardless of where we are.
        However, a significant majority of Venezuelans see him as a hero and a leader hose actions and vision changed their lives forever. Obviously, he had many flaws. His megalomaniac ambitions, manifested in the so-called Bolivarian revolution, was one of them. Many of his policies were very successful short term. The long lasting effects of his largesse is coming back to hunt his supporters, and it is going to be a long time before one of the richest countries in the Western hemisphere enjoys the fruits of its huge natural resources.

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    The best solution to the problem is for Maduro to leave for exile to Havana.