Venezuelan National Assembly Vice-President Released amidst Peace Talks

By Marco Teruggi on September 19, 2019

Congressman Edgar Zambrano of Democratic Action was released.

Venezuela’s Government and a section of the opposition signed a five-point agreement and set up a new round of national peace talks. The event came to alter the pace and the possible resolution of the conflict in a scenario in which the main space for dialog, mediated by Norway, had been frozen. Surprise was the overall reaction for the cameras focused on the agreement: It was not part of the pieces on the floor that they expected.

The first movement as a result of the pact occurred during the last few hours with the release of Deputy and Vice-President of the National Assembly, Edgar Zambrano, from prison. The Democratic Action party member had been arrested because of his participation in the military action against the Government last April 30. It is stipulated that the opposition deputy will have to appear in court every 30 days.

The Government performed in unity. As usual in these scenarios, Chavism did not raise any disagreement towards what they presented as a major achievement in the midst of an escalation on several fronts —particularly on the Colombian border and in matters of diplomacy.

The agreement was ratified and defended in front of cameras by four political groups: the parties MAS, Cambiemos, Soluciones para Venezuela, and Avanzada Progresista. Ex presidential candidate Javier Bertucchi also joined the agreement. The majority opposition forces, such as Voluntad Popular, Primero Justicia, Accion Democratica, and Un Nuevo Tiempo, rejected the agreement.

Juan Guaido, president of the National Assembly, gave a press conference simultaneously to the televised signing of the agreement. He considered that the talks under the mediation of Norway was finished the space started under the mediation of Norway  and he blamed the Venezuelan Government for not being able to reach an agreement, and he downplayed the opposition sectors that signed the agreement, disregarding that it could actually represent a solution.

The five points that would be achieved after signing the agreement are: Chavista deputies shall return to their posts in the National Assembly; setting up a new National Electoral Council; working jointly with the justice system to tackle the situation of imprisoned politicians to take steps for their release according to their cases; condemning the U.S. economic sanctions; defending the Essequibo territory that is the subject of an international disagreement; and implementing a program to exchange oil for food.

Beginning with negotiations these talks raise the possibility of an electoral resolution, mainly marked by renewing the electoral body that has always been demanded by the opposition. It also offers an attempt to overcome the clash of public powers involving the legislative branch, as well as reaching a consensus about condemning the international blockade that hinders the country’s economic recovery and normalization.

The negotiated aspects reveal a difference with what was proposed by the absent opposition sectors, which have defended the U.S. sanctions to force the government to negotiate under unfavorable conditions. They have opposed a solution which would not include the resignation of Nicolas Maduro as a starting point, even before carrying out new presidential elections in which he could not participate.

But these stances are not homogeneous either. These political forces such as Accion Democratica favor an electoral scenario but they are not part of the agreement; but others, such as Antonio Ledezma or Maria Corina Machado have stated that any electoral solution is unfeasible and that any way out should be by force; while parties such as Primero Justicia have vacillated on their stances.

Besides achieving the mentioned items, the agreement seems to be aimed at driving those sectors that are against a violent solution with foreign intervention and which may agree with an intermediate position. A national and peaceful resolution of the conflict was underlined during the signing of the agreement and subsequent statements.

The  Government for its part denounced the use of a false flag prepared in Colombia to trigger an escalation in the conflict. Second, calling to implement the Rio Treaty, which will be discussed by the foreign ministers of its member States during the United Nations Assembly General.  The third was a new confirmation, by means of pictures and testimonies, of the link between Juan Guaido and Colombian paramilitary groups.

It’s still early to know what the next steps will be, how will the return of the Chavista deputies to the National Assembly be possible; what this institution,  declared in contempt by the Supreme Court of Justice, will try against the deputies; or how will the renewal of the electoral body be.

The United States has given a twofold response in the face of the current situation. First, the Department of the Treasury announced new sanctions against sixteen companies linked to Venezuela. Second, the Department of State issued a statement accusing the Government of being responsible for the failure of the talks, ratifying that they will not lift the blockade until Maduro leaves the presidency, and highlighting that implementing the Rio Treaty aims at “facilitating more collective actions.”

With this new scenario, the Government launched an initiative in agreement with opposition sectors that were immediately branded as traitors by other right-wing forces. It remains to be seen, among other issues, if it will manage to gather other parties and if the proposal will reach enough consensus, in the country and abroad, to pave the way for possible elections —which according to Maduro would be legislative.

Source: Pagina 12, translation Resumen Latinoamericano, North America bureau