The Venezuelan opposition reverses Maduro’s priorities and calls for elections with guarantees to lift sanctions | International

The delegations of the Government and the Venezuelan opposition, meeting in Mexico last weekend.National Assembly of Venezuela (EFE)

The Venezuelan opposition has cautiously taken Nicolás Maduro’s equation about holding elections with guarantees. The president conditioned on Wednesday the call for free and verified elections, the central objective of the dialogue table that was installed in Mexico, to the lifting of international sanctions. The economic measures, applied mainly by the United States with the purpose of weakening Chavismo, have already undergone a review and, for example, Washington approved last week a license so that the oil company Chevron can operate again in Venezuela. However, Maduro’s statements occur in a specific context, that of negotiation, and the opposition forces defend the need to reverse the factors: that is, that elections be held first under equal conditions and then lift the sanctions.

“Political sanctions are one thing, individual sanctions for committing crimes are another,” Leopoldo López, founder of Voluntad Popular and a leading voice of the Venezuelan opposition, emphasized in statements to EL PAÍS. Once the humanitarian and more social agreements have been established in the round of talks in Mexico, says López, “the focus of the dialogue will be centered on the electoral issue in a second instance.” “There is a third phase, that of negotiating political guarantees for those who win and lose the election. Maduro has made an approach, in the communication field, that advances the order of the discussions. Of course Maduro can kick the table, he has done it many times already. It would not be a surprise, ”he adds.

Carlos Vecchio, representative of Juan Guaidó’s team in Washington and member of the negotiating delegation in Mexico, also from Voluntad Popular, believes that Maduro’s petition “is an express recognition that fair elections are not held in Venezuela.” “If Maduro wants the sanctions lifted, what he has to do is lift his dictatorship,” he launched.

Both López and Vecchio agree, in any case, with the policy of easing sanctions that the Joe Biden Administration is testing against Chavismo, as long as these decisions are made in the context of a comprehensive political agreement. “The important thing is to assume the commitment that if there are not sufficient guarantees for fair elections, the easing of sanctions that is underway will be reversed. It is not a small thing that has been granted to Maduro as gestures to advance the dialogue in these weeks. We want a negotiation that gives results, that offers us conditions that do not exist at the moment,” says López.

Stalin González, from Un Nuevo Tiempo, also a member of the opposition negotiating team, affirms that the political dialogue with Chavismo “must be seen as a first big step after so many years of diatribe.” “We continue to work hard to achieve compliance with the agenda set forth in the Memorandum of Understanding, which includes social issues, political and economic issues; guarantees that seek to recover democracy, live in freedom and give a great framework of agreement for political coexistence in democracy”, continues González.

Juan Guaidó himself issued a public statement in which he promised to “insist on an agreement” with Maduro, adding that international sanctions “continue and will be maintained” until a reliable framework for fair elections is finalized. Guaidó recalled that Chevron’s license to exploit oil in the Venezuelan oil fields “is revocable and for a finite time.” With this premise, he maintains that “political dialogue is a useful tool if it brings us closer to a solution to the problem, it is not an end in itself.”

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In the opposition negotiating team, however, there are notorious differences in approach regarding the scope and usefulness of the dialogue, and a clear personal distance between its members based on their own experience in managing the struggle that Maduro was fired from 2019. If the leaders of Voluntad Popular, for example, have a more vertical interpretation of the procedures with Chavismo and the need to set limits to the concessions made to Maduro if he does not keep his word, in other parties, such as Un Nuevo Tiempo y Acción Democrática, the criteria of ignoring them and enforcing suitable and possible agreements prevails, even if they are not perfect, prioritizing the social agenda and national coexistence.

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