Venezuela’s government and opposition have failed to break their political deadlock in a new round of talks, with the government blaming the problems on US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Opposition chief negotiator Julio Borges received a phone call from Bogota while Tillerson was visiting neighbouring Colombia on Tuesday, the government’s top negotiator Jorge Rodriguez said.
Borges denied having been pressured by Washington not to seal a deal. “We Venezuelans really do not take orders either from the US or from Cuba. I guarantee you that until there is a dignified agreement, we shall not sign anything,” he tweeted yesterday.
Rodriguez had earlier said that a deal was about to be signed in Santo Domingo.
The government and opposition have held several rounds of talks in the Dominican capital.
Sticking points include opposition demands for guarantees that the elections scheduled to be held before April 30 will be transparent, and the government’s request that the opposition recognise the legitimacy of the six-month-old, pro-government Constituent Assembly.
Tillerson had earlier said in Argentina that the US was considering sanctions against Venezuela’s critical oil industry, prompting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to retort that other countries were prepared to buy oil from Caracas.
More than 100 people were killed in anti-government protests last year in the South American country mired in a massive economic crisis.
Tillerson on Tuesday said the US is heartbroken by the economic and social situation effecting Venezuela and appreciates Colombia’s help in dealing with the humanitarian crisis.
Standing beside Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos, Tillerson said the two men had an extensive exchange about how they and other countries could help Venezuela, especially through multilateral organisations like the Organization of American States.
“Our only objective is to see Venezuela return to its constitution, return its duly elected assembly, to hold free and fair elections,” Tillerson said.
“We are all heartbroken by what we see happening in Venezuela — such a great country — and we are also heartbroken to see the impact it’s having on Colombia,” Tillerson said.
Venezuela has faced an economic meltdown after a plunge in oil prices that has left millions with barely any food and hundreds of thousands fleeing to Colombia, Chile and other countries.
Venezuelans citizens, some 30,000 of whom cross the border on daily passes to buy food and other basics, are suffering, said Santos. He will visit the border city of Cucuta today to check on humanitarian efforts there.
Tillerson also said he was encouraged by Colombia’s efforts to combat the illegal drugs trade and a recent surge in cultivation of coca, the raw material that makes cocaine.
“We will continue to work with Colombia to support these efforts where we can be of assistance as well; this is a shared challenge for both of our nations,” he said.
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