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Venezuela: Dialogue Is Off! Amid Escalated Repression, Opposition Freezes Talks

By: María Gabriela Díaz - May 13, 2014, 1:11 pm

Español“The meetings [with the government] are suspended until the chancellors from UNASUR arrive here,” MUD representative and president of the Social-Christian Party (COPEI), Roberto Enríquez, announced last night. The news came after another wave of repression blocked access to a student march yesterday afternoon, including more arrests of students.

Today both parties, the government and opposition, were scheduled to hold a meeting for the three ad-hoc commissions to decide on amnesty matters, and decentralization. The appointments of new heads for the National Electoral Council, the Supreme Court of Justice, the General Attorney’s Office, the Government Accountability Office, and the Ombudsman were also pending.

However, the opposition coalition (MUD) have called off any further meetings until the chancellors of UNASUR — María Ángela Holguín (Colombia), Ricardo Patiño (Ecuador), and Luiz Alberto Figueiredo (Brazil) — arrive in Venezuela on Thursday, and can hear to the MUD’s grievances. In this regard, MUD members expect to do an overall evaluation on the most recent events regarding detentions, arbitrary arrests, and violent repression from state authorities.

Roberto Enríquez, president of the Social-Christian party, during a press conference
Roberto Enríquez, president of the Social-Christian party (COPEI), during a press conference. May, 2014. Source: COPEI.

Instead of halting the violence, since the dialogue started, the regime has detained at least 690 Venezuelans for protesting. On May 8 alone, 243 students who were participating in a peaceful demonstration through campsites were arrested in the middle of the night.

“The unjustified repression against students and protesters” is the main reason why these meetings are suspended, according to the MUD deputy secretary, Ramón José Medina.

Even though the demands made by the opposition are many, the biggest achievement the MUD has made so far is the creation of a medical board that examined the deteriorating health of political prisoner, Ivan Simonovis. This examination could be the first step to achieve Simonovis’s compassionate release, according to MUD secretary, Ramon Guillermo Aveledo.

However, the ruling Socialist Party Party of Venezuela (PSUV), and the Communist Party have not agreed on that outcome. PSUV Representative and Mayor of Libertador Jorge Rodríguez affirmed a clear rejection of a possible amnesty for political prisoners, and he ridiculed Aveledo’s announcement regarding Simonovis’s future liberation: “these are animated fantasies!”

For some opposition parties the government’s limited, or complete lack of, seriousness regarding the commitments assumed with this dialogue is no surprise. Parties like Popular Will have expressed their discontent and warned all along that there can’t be any peace talks while students are still detained for protesting. Despite these warnings, the MUD proceeded and promised to negotiate for their release. The opposition coalition even gave President Nicolás Maduro a list of all detainees to be analyzed for future liberation, but so far the government has made very clear it will only evaluate case by case.

Freddy Guevara, a representative from the party Popular Will Party, says it doesn’t make sense to release a 10-year prisoner, while the government still detains dozens of students every day. The political organization, founded by Leopoldo López, warns that the government’s new strategy is a “vicious circle,” where they shield themselves with the dialogue card releasing five political prisoners, while incarcerating 10 more.

“We are not only asking for the liberation of political prisoners, but that they [government officials] stop putting people behind bars,” Guevara firmly stated.

President of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello
President of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello during his TV show. Source: AVN.

MUD Deputy Secretary Ramón José Medina also pointed out that Chavismo’s “radical and military wing” headed by the president of the national assembly, Diosdado Cabello, is the group harming any possibility for the dialogue to be successful. While Maduro and the MUD were negotiating to create a truth commission headed by someone chosen by both parties, Cabello created his own parliamentary truth commission that has been used to persecute political dissidents.

Last night, in his TV show, Cabello denounced a list of 14 people from the Global Shaper Community, accused of conspiracy. The list also included Alfredo Romero, director of Foro Penal — a human rights NGO — and Rodrigo Diamanti, CATO alumni and director of A World Without Censorship — a free speech NGO. He also accused Metropolitan Mayor and leader of the opposition, Antonio Ledezma, of allegedly supplying drugs and weapons to “subversive groups,” referring to student protesters.

“The government must decide between winning a war or winning the peace,” MUD secretary, Aveledo stated during an interview this morning. “We want the dialogue to produce results, but if it is to participate in a situation where we are pretending, we are not interested.”

María Gabriela Díaz María Gabriela Díaz

María Gabriela Díaz reported from Caracas, Venezuela, and led the PanAm Post internship program. She has a Bachelor of Arts in political science with a focus in international affairs.