The Venezuelan opposition leader Julio Borges speaks during the press conference he gave at the Dominican Foreign Ministry after meeting with representatives of the Venezuelan Government, this Wednesday, February 7 in Santo Domingo
The Venezuelan opposition refused to sign an agreement with the government on guarantees for the presidential elections, claiming that it does not comply with their demands, but will present comments to the text on Wednesday to decide whether to participate in the elections.
„Until we have a document that is up to par (…) of the Venezuelan people can be sure that we will not sign,“ warned Julio Borges, chief negotiator of the opposition Democratic Unity Table (MUD), after five hours of meeting with government delegates in Santo Domingo.
However, the Dominican president, Danilo Medina, reported that the facilitators of the dialogue delivered a document to the parties to reach a consensus.
„We have a wait time until tomorrow at ten thirty in the morning to receive the observations,“ said Medina, who sponsors the talks.
It is not clear if the negotiators will hold a new face-off on Wednesday. After the meeting on Tuesday, the delegates of President Nicolás Maduro went ahead to sign the report before the press.
The head of the delegation, Jorge Rodriguez, said that on Monday night in Caracas, the parties had agreed to sign an agreement that included, among other points, „the timetable and date“ of the presidential election, advanced by the ruling party to before April 30.
But Rodriguez said that the opposition retracted after receiving a „phone call from Bogotá“, where -he recalled- is the Secretary of State of the United States, Rex Tillerson, a harsh critic of the Maduro government.
„An act of absolute embarrassment for those who continue to receive instructions from abroad,“ Rodriguez said while signing the document.
„We received no orders from either the United States or Cuba, only from the Venezuelan people,“ Borges later told reporters at the headquarters of the Dominican Foreign Ministry.
Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz, whose government facilitates the process and sent his ambassador to Santo Domingo, denounced on Twitter that the opposition was being pressured to sign a „paper that does not contemplate guarantees of presidential elections.“
– „Free elections“ –
The MUD reiterated that its demands in the negotiation that began on December 1 are electoral guarantees, humanitarian aid in the face of the socio-economic crisis, „rescue of the powers“ of the opposition-majority parliament and the release of „political prisoners“.
The negotiation is linked to the deliberations of the National Electoral Council (CNE) – accused by the opposition of serving the government – in a „permanent“ session from Monday to define the date of the elections, in which Maduro will seek re-election.
The government insists that the United States pressures the opposition not to sign an agreement and boycott the presidential elections.
Although supported by Russia and China, the Maduro government faces international isolation and sanctions from the United States and the European Union, which accuse it of authoritarianism.
During his tour of Latin America, Tillerson called for „free, fair and verifiable elections“ in Venezuela and warned that Washington is considering applying sanctions to its oil exports.
– Date of elections –
The ruling Constituent Assembly advanced the elections – traditionally in December – which set off a divided opposition after four months of protests in 2017 that left 125 dead, unable to remove Maduro from power.
According to a source close to the dialogue, the opposition demands that the election not be before April 22, while the government, already in the campaign, intends to speed up the date.
The opposition has not yet decided whether it will go to primary or elect a consensus candidate. Its main leaders, Henrique Capriles and Leopoldo López -in house arrest-, are politically disabled.
In addition, the judiciary, accused of being an official, excluded the MUD from the elections, claiming that being a coalition of parties induces a double militancy.
The largest group of that alliance, Primero Justicia, was also out of the game because it could not comply with its re-registration, which it blamed on the CNE.
Political scientist John Magdaleno said that while „it is not feasible“ for the opposition to restore all guarantees, granting so much without pressure will not give results either. “
Maduro faces an unpopularity of 70%, according to the pollster Delphos, as many Venezuelans blame him for hyperinflation – projected by the IMF at 13,000% by 2018 – and the serious shortage of food and medicine.