Capriles Sees No Room for Venezuela Dialogue as Crisis Grows

  • Venezuela lost capacity for dialogue years ago, Capriles says
  • Opposition governor renews call for referendum this year

Opposition governor and two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said the time for dialogue with Venezuela’s government to resolve a simmering political and economic crisis had long passed.

“There has been no dialogue here, the culture of dialogue has been destroyed,” Capriles said at a Friday news conference in Caracas. “The government is only interested in a show and in buying time.”

Henrique Capriles
Henrique Capriles
Photographer: Carlos Becerra/Bloomberg

Capriles urged the opposition alliance to remain unified but also to review its agenda to stay in line with the demands of ordinary Venezuelans as they face the worst recession in decades and the world’s fastest inflation. He said there should be no mediated talks with the government until the national electoral board, or CNE, sets a date for the opposition’s recall referendum on the rule of President Nicolas Maduro.

Capriles’s comments came as former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has been in Caracas pushing for mediated talks with the the South American regional bloc known as Unasur. The state-run Telesur network reported in late May that leaders of the ruling socialist party and opposition had met in the Dominican Republic.

The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States on June 1 approved a declaration that supported the initiative by former heads of state of Spain, the Dominican Republic, and Panama to “reopen an effective dialogue between the government and the opposition.”

On Friday, Maduro’s government filed a suit against the leadership of opposition-controlled National Assembly at the Supreme Court for usurping its powers, Elvis Amoroso, the government’s legal representative, said on state television. Since winning control of congress in December elections, the opposition has seen its central initiatives and majority narrowed by the court.

‘Comfort Zone’

Saying that Venezuela lost the capacity for dialogue years ago, Capriles pointed to the scant results produced by opposition-government talks held in 2014 after dozens were killed during months of riots. Some members of the opposition alliance had been critical of Caprilles at the time for initially supporting and participating in those talks.

“We can’t keep going to the table with the mediators until the mediators themselves tell the government to respect the constitution and set a date for the referendum,” Capriles said. “Are we properly reading the crisis in the country? We have to get out of our comfort zone and and defend the people so that there’s a solution this year, because we don’t want a social explosion or coup.”

Protests in Caracas on June 2.
Protests in Caracas on June 2.
Photographer: Carlos Becerra/Bloomberg

At least 19 journalists were attacked while covering food protests in downtown Caracas on Thursday. While protests have been increasing across the country as Venezuelans struggle with the worst recession in decades and shortages of basic goods and food, demonstrations have until now been somewhat rare in the area which has traditionally been a government stronghold.

The only catalyst that could threaten Maduro’s government this year would be a “social explosion” that would force a negotiated exit, Eurasia Group, a global research and consulting firm, said Tuesday in a research note.

Venezuela’s opposition called for nationwide marches Monday morning after it said the CNE had canceled a scheduled meeting to discuss the status of their referendum request.

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