SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — Representatives of Venezuela’s government and opposition began meetings in the Dominican Republic on Wednesday to explore possibilities for restarting talks on resolving the South American nation’s economic and political turmoil.
Dominican President Danilo Medina said he met with delegates from both Venezuela’s government and the opposition for more than five hours, though he did not say whether he met with the two sides together or separately.
“There is a lot of willingness to reach some kind of negotiation,” Medina said, adding that more meetings would be held Thursday.
Jorge Rodriguez, the mayor of Caracas who is on the government delegation, expressed optimism about the chance for new negotiations.
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But earlier in the day, Venezuelan opposition leader Julio Borges, who leads his country’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, said there would be no new talks until conditions outlined by the main opposition coalition have been met.
Among the conditions are setting a complete electoral calendar including the 2018 presidential election, freeing political prisoners, allowing humanitarian aid and respecting institutions like the opposition-controlled congress.
A previous round of talks sponsored by the Vatican collapsed last year when the opposition accused Venezuela’s socialist government of living up to promises that the opposition claimed were made at the bargaining table, including setting a timetable for elections and releasing political prisoners.
Venezuela’s political crisis worsened, and saw four months of near-daily anti-government protests that began in April and resulted in at least 120 deaths. The opposition protests have sputtered, however, since a powerful, pro-government constitutional assembly was seated in early August and has been targeting President Nicolas Maduro’s political foes and ruling with nearly unlimited power.
The president has repeatedly urged the opposition to resume talks, but anti-government leaders contend Maduro has become a dictator squashing any dissent and say he should be removed from power rather than negotiated with.