CARACAS.—The six agreements reached during the second meeting of the dialogue between the Chavista government and the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), would appear to suggest that for now at least, opposition forces have recognized that no extreme solution will resolve Venezuela’s political conflict and economic crisis.
Between the lines of each conciliatory paragraph, especially those of the Joint Declaration on Peaceful Coexistence, signed by both parties, the view predominates that only concerted, cooperative, and above all peaceful action, is the effective means to improve the tense situation that significantly impacts all aspects of national life.
Until now, the language used by different parties had been so aggressive that it was not possible, even in words, to reach an agreement to work together for a country where the most urgent daily needs have been exacerbated by political confrontation. On the one hand, the resistance of the socialist initiative promoted by President Nicolás Maduro, determined to get the economy back on track with fully sovereign productive efforts; and on the other the right-wing alternative of economic sabotage, institutional conspiracy, and media attacks against a government they want to overthrow at all costs.
Given the visible tension expressed in public speeches, street mobilizations, the usurpation of a National Assembly taken as an instrument to fabricate a coup d'état against an executive who, while resisting political confrontation, has assumed full administrative responsibility for the country, many were taken by surprise by the signing of these agreements, both in terms of the content itself, and the tone alluding to an “understanding” which many distrust.
The prior first meeting only served to formally establish the dialogue process, with several working groups, about which no more was revealed until this November 11; a period in which the verbal offensive did not stop, as the right sought to create a sense of a final ultimatum to increase pressure on the government.
It was not to be expected, therefore, that immediately following the second meeting, the so-called “road map” would be defined in such a way as to advance towards concrete measures in key areas, which were precisely the main targets of the attacks by the national oligarchy, seeking to dismantle the social model and power relations transformed by the Bolivarian Revolution.
For example, the first of the agreements goes straight to the heart of the most worrisome issue of Venezuelan current affairs: the economy, precisely the fundamental theater of operations for both political extremes. One side is on the offensive, working for progress, while the other continues its counteroffensive to diminish any positive steps forward.
At least on paper, the announcement of the agreements responds to the 80% of the population that polls revealed support the dialogue process, and who were the first to welcome the final declaration of the meeting. Particularly welcomed was a fragment of the inaugural agreement that establishes the willingness to “work together to combat all forms of sabotage, boycott or aggression against the Venezuelan economy.”
The crucial aspect is that the points set out are more than superficial, and specify the interest in adopting concrete, immediate measures, subject to joint control, and with a productive vision different from the traditional oil-dependent model, to solve two pressing problems.
In this regard, the agreement calls for “prioritizing, in the short term, measures aimed at supplying medicines and foodstuffs on the basis of helping to promote their production and import,” and insists on “promoting the design and implementation of cooperation procedures between the public and private sectors to monitor, regulate, and control the mechanisms for acquiring and distributing raw materials and finished products.”
The second clause focuses on the need to overcome the political conflict generated by the current state of illegitimacy of the opposition-dominated National Assembly’s decisions, having disobeyed the orders of the Supreme Court of Justice.
In this regard, the parties urged “competent public authorities to act in the resolution of the Amazonas case on peremptory terms.” If we recall, the Supreme Court ruling stems from the swearing in by the leadership of the National Assembly of three opposition deputies from the State of Amazonas, despite an ongoing legal investigation against them in which they are accused of electoral fraud.
Also in the strictly political sphere, relating to the electoral interests of the parties, they agreed to work together and within the constitutional framework “for the appointment of the two rectors of the National Electoral Council, [with the present] concluding their term in December 2016.” This is a crucial aspect following opposition attempts to bring forward general elections or hold a recall referendum on the President of the Republic.
In the following agreement, the government and the MUD established a unanimous position on defending the legitimate rights of Venezuela over the Guayana Esequiba region, “within the framework of national sovereignty and safeguarding territorial integrity.” At a critical point of discussions, this issue had also served as a pretext for the internal political divide.
The sixth and final point of agreement is aimed at strengthening the institutionalization of dialogue as a continuous process, for which Unasur Secretary Ernesto Samper has announced he will invite representatives of different sectors of Venezuelan society to participate.
Likewise, Samper reported the decision to create a Follow-up Commission and appoint a Governor to represent each party, in this case Jorge Rodríguez for the Bolivarian executive, and Luis Aquiles Moreno for the MUD.
However, it was agreement number five, the Joint Declaration on Peaceful Coexistence, that perhaps had as much of an impact itself as the announcement of the agreements as a whole. The rational language of the text goes far beyond the nonsense that has dominated the political confrontation; it calls for supporting the process of dialogue above and beyond any partisan interests, and invites all parties to settle their differences through strict adherence to democratic, constitutional. and above all peaceful means.
It now remains to be seen whether the conciliatory rhetoric of these agreements will translate into immediate, concrete measures.
Thus far, just hours after the conclusion of the second meeting, there were already statements made by several opposition leaders who insist on continuing their verbal aggression and stress the removal of the current government as the only possible solution.
Thus renowned figures continue in the same mode: Capriles openly offends, Ramos Allup returns to direct blame on the “Chavomadurista regime,” and other opposition leaders reject the agreements. Meanwhile, Jesús Torrealba, leading the MUD in the dialogue process, criticized the loud-mouthed and violent, but announced the reactivation of the “street agenda” and specified that the main objective remains the definitive departure of President Nicolás Maduro.
In short, there are still too many contradictory voices within the right wing opposition, serving to cultivate skepticism regarding the large stretch of ground that lies between what is agreed on paper and what is put into practice. Meanwhile, the Bolivarian government, committed to the call for dialogue, continues to prioritize the issue, yet does not neglect even for a second the moves toward a different economic agenda, whose success will ultimately be reflected in increased credibility and popular support at the polls.