Venezuela’s Long Road

Talks began last Sunday in Venezuela between President Nicolás Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela and the opposition parties in the legislature.  The talks are mediated by the Vatican and former leaders from Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Spain.  The goal of these talks is to defuse the tension between Maduro’s government and the opposition in legislature, as well as deal with the economic crisis and discuss issues of rule of law, sovereignty, and human rights.  Due to a drop in oil prices the OPEC member nation’s economy is in a dire state; the International Monetary Fund expects Venezuela’s economy to contract by 8% in the upcoming year.  Additionally, the inflation rate of 481.52% for 2016 is expected to climb even higher to 1,642% in 2017.  The country is also suffering from shortages in key goods including medicine, leaving public hospitals struggling to maintain care.

Four activists were recently freed. Three had been accused of damaging military morale though the creation of a political propaganda video that showed the members of military suffering the same economic hardships as the protestors, and the fourth was Coromoto Rodriquez, the head of security for the legislature, who was arrested during a protest in May.  The opposition in turn postponed the symbolic trial in Congress of Nicolas Maduro and cancelled a mass march scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 3rd, although some smaller student protests were still held.

However, there is still a lot of tension on both sides.  The opposition warns it will quit peace talks if conditions are not met.  Those conditions include the release of about 100 jailed activists and bringing forward the presidential election currently set for late 2018, which will likely result in the removal of Maduro as 75% of Venezuelans in a recent have said they are unhappy with his leadership.  Julio Borges, the speaker of the opposition-led National Assembly, further warned that the trial would be reopened and protests begun again if these demands are not satisfied.

A major difficulty that could prevent the talks from being successful in dealing with the economic and political crisis is that fact that some factions of the opposition are refusing to come to the table.  Without their voices in the room and cooperating it is unlikely they will be satisfied by the result of these talks.  One main faction is the Popular Will party, who did not agree with the decision to postpone the trial or the peace talks and refuses to join the dialogue until their leader Leopoldo Lopez is released from prison.  Additionally, Maduro has made some hostile statements regarding the opposition: Maduro labeled Popular Will a terrorist party and has argued that the opposition party along with corrupt businesses backed by the United States are launching an economic war on the country.  Such statements led to a debate on whether or not the protests should be back on.

In the meantime, as Venezuela deals with its economic and political troubles, they also face isolation from the surrounding region and the rest of the world due to human rights issues.  Serious changes will have to be made as the present situation is unsustainable.  The nation may indeed depend on the success of these talks and the willingness of both parties to find a  solution.

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