Photographer: Wil Riera/Bloomberg

Venezuela’s Government, Opposition Agree to Road Map on Economy

  • Breakthrough seen at second round of Vatican-brokered talks
  • Looking for ways to end an impasse, get nation on track

Representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and opposition parties, following a second round of talks brokered by the Vatican, agreed on a tentative road map to address a political and economic impasse that’s driven the oil-rich nation to its knees.

The Vatican delegate, Claudio Maria Celli, discussed developments at a press conference that followed four hours of talks in Caracas on Saturday. A third meeting, facilitated by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) as well as the Vatican, has been set for Dec. 6 to further discuss points of agreement.

Representatives of the government and opposition read a joint statement at the press briefing on their commitment to “a peaceful and constructive co-existence” and to resolve differences within a “constitutional and electoral framework.”

Certain demands made by the opposition, including a recall referendum against Maduro’s rule, an early presidential election and the release of prisoners, weren’t addressed in Celli’s comments.

“Peace is succeeding,” Maduro said on Twitter after the meeting.

Progress cited by the opposition include respect for National Assembly’s autonomy, election of three lawmakers in dispute, election of new Electoral Board members, freedom for prisoners and government authorization for medication to be delivered into Venezuela, representative Carlos Ocariz said.

The latest developments followed what Ernesto Samper, general secretary of UNASUR and one of the meeting facilitators, called results on Friday, when the latest round of talks kicked off, “very positive.”

Samper, a former president of Colombia, said the government and opposition representatives reviewed the main points of the agenda: prisoners, humanitarian aid and the electoral timetable. He added that members of civilian organizations will be invited to the talks and that two governors will be included as well: Henri Falcon from the opposition and Tareck el Aissami from the government’s party.

In the lead-up to this weekend’s meetings, the opposition threatened to pull out of talks entirely if tangible action didn’t result. In comments broadcast late Friday evening, Celli said one of the facilitators called it a “miracle” that both sides could debate so respectfully.

Ahead of the talks, the opposition called off a planned demonstration aimed at the presidential palace following the government’s release from jail of a handful of opposition activists.

After almost a year of simmering political deadlock and sporadic unrest, the government’s decision in October to suspend the opposition’s recall drive on accusations of fraud sent tensions in the South American nation toward a boiling point.

Facing the world’s highest inflation rate and a third straight year of recession, Maduro and his adversaries agreed to a formal sit-down brokered by various ex-presidents from the region and Spain, UNASUR and the Vatican.

The opposition blames Venezuela’s woes on nearly 18 years of socialist rule and has promised to unseat Maduro before his term ends in 2019. Shown by polls to be highly unpopular, Maduro blames foul play by his opponents for Venezuela’s woes and has likened the hoped-for referendum drive to a “coup,” insisting there is no chance of a recall vote this year.

(A previous version of this story was corrected to fix the spelling of Samper.)