Caracas, opposition reach initial agreements

The government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and its opposition rivals say they have reached preliminary agreements following a fresh round of talks on resolving the Latin American country’s political and economic crisis.

The announcement of the tentative deals was made after the two sides met in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas on Saturday. A joint statement of agreement was later issued on the areas of elections and foreign aid as part of the Vatican-backed talks.

“We solemnly agree that our political differences can only be settled strictly within the framework of the constitution, and along a democratic, peaceful and electoral path,” the joint statement read.

Under the agreement, Maduro’s allies will consider letting foreign donors provide food and medicine to the crisis-hit country and work toward naming new directors to the national elections authority, which the opposition nevertheless says favors Maduro.

Vatican envoy Monsignor Claudio Maria Celli said the Venezuelan government and the opposition had agreed to “a roadmap” that aimed to normalize constitutional relationships between the branches of government and deal with the crisis plaguing the country.

The two sides are scheduled to meet again on December 6.

Meanwhile, the opposition MUD coalition leader, Jesus Torre alba, has warned that his side would seek early polls if the government kept blocking a recall referendum against Maduro.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro (C), UNASUR General Secretary Ernesto Samper (R) and Vatican’s pontifical council for social communications, Monsignor Claudio Maria Celli, are pictured during a meeting between Venezuela’s government and opposition leaders in Caracas, October 30, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

According to the provisions of the constitution, the opposition must secure the referendum before January 10 if it seeks to have Maduro removed from office through the vote. Otherwise, the Venezuelan president or his allies will maintain power until 2019.

The MUD has further demanded the release of its imprisoned members and called for the opening of a humanitarian corridor into the country.

The crash of oil prices in 2014 triggered an economic crisis in Venezuela, leading to severe shortages of basic supplies and soaring inflation.

While the opposition blames Maduro’s economic management for the food shortages, he has described the crisis as a US-backed capitalist conspiracy.

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