Venezuela to relaunch talks with opposition
November 11 2017 12:24 AM
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The Venezuelan government will relaunch talks with the opposition to seek a solution to the country’s political stalemate and massive economic crisis. The talks will start on November 15 in the Dominican Republic, Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said on Twitter.
Both sides have sought international mediation for the talks.
The opposition will be assisted by Chile, Paraguay and Mexico, while Bolivia, Nicaragua and a third country still to be named will act as mediators on the government side, said Luis Florido, head of a parliamentary foreign affairs committee.
It was hoped the mediation would make the talks more efficient, after several attempts at dialogue failed earlier this year.
The talks were expected to focus on plans to reform the National Electoral Council (CNE), which the opposition accuses of favouring the government.
President Nicolas Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) took 18 out of 23 governorships in the October 15 regional elections, which the opposition regards as fraudulent.
Negotiators will also discuss the situation of the opposition-dominated National Assembly, which Maduro is accused of trying to override after creating a new Constituent Assembly; the release of people the opposition regards as political prisoners; and the economic crisis.
A drop in oil prices has hit the major oil producer hard, while the triple-digit inflation is one of the highest in the world.
A lack of foodstuffs and other basic goods has contributed to hundreds of thousands of people fleeing to neighbouring Colombia. More than 120 people have been killed in anti-government protests so far this year.
The government has invited creditors to a meeting in Caracas on Monday in an attempt to restructure a part of the country’s massive external debt, estimated at more than $180bn.
Earlier the US slapped more sanctions against Maduro’s government, targeting 10 officials it said engaged in election irregularities to perpetuate what Washington called a dictatorial regime.
The new sanctions come as EU member states prepare to impose an arms embargo on Venezuela, whose leftist government has sought to tighten its grip on power amid a prolonged economic and political crisis that led to street clashes and 125 dead from April to July.
“As the Venezuelan government continues to disregard the will of its people, our message remains clear: the US will not stand aside while the Maduro regime continues to destroy democratic order and prosperity in Venezuela,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
He said the US will continue to go after Venezuelan officials who are complicit in efforts to undermine democracy, violate human rights, and act corruptly “unless they break from Maduro’s dictatorial regime.”
Venezuela reacted angrily to the new sanctions, with Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza saying on Twitter they were designed to trigger violence.

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