Venezuela’s anti-socialist opposition coalition announced Thursday it would no longer participate in Vatican-sponsored talks with the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro, noting that the government has been “arrogant and rude” and done nothing to advance the liberation of political prisoners or improve the economy.
The negotiations, representatives of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) said in a letter, “are a closed chapter that will not be opened again”:
The breach of the agreements on the part of the government and, especially, the arrogant and rude response to the regime to the demands formulated in a letter from the Vatican… revealed to the world what the Venezuelan people already know well: the regime does not keep its word, and without guarantees it does not make sense to continue to make “agreements” with those who have no intention of abiding by them.
The letter goes on to call the struggle to remove Maduro and the socialist regime “the existential struggle of an entire nation against an ideological project and a corrupt regime that has destroyed what was until recently the most resource-rich economy in Latin America, and destroyed democracy.”
It concludes with a call to action to the people of Venezuela to use peaceful protests to demand free and fair elections.
The MUD’s decision to abandon talks with the government, which began in October and have produced no concrete results, follows Maduro’s assurances at the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit in the Dominican Republic Wednesday that the talks were going well. Maduro said at the event that the talks would yield results “sooner rather than later” and the agreements therein would “help strengthen democracy, peace, and stability.”
Following a meeting in person with Maduro in October, the Vatican began to mediate talks between the Maduro socialists and the MUD, currently the ruling party in the National Assembly. A month into the talks, the socialists refused to continue them, arguing that an investigation into Maduro’s ties to his two nephews, currently in prison in New York on cocaine trafficking charges, should be prohibited.
The socialists ultimately returned to the negotiating table but refused to address most of the opposition’s main concerns, most importantly the liberation of political prisoners. Maduro has arrested dozens of opposition party member and anti-socialist activists, including the mayor of the capital city Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, and Leopoldo López, the head of the opposition party Popular Will. Mitzy Capriles and Lilian Tintori, the wives of both respectively, chained themselves to the Vatican gates in protest late last year. Unlike with Maduro, Pope Francis did not meet with them.
The refusal to address these issues triggered a private letter from the Vatican, later leaked to the press. In it, Cardinal Pietro Parolin demanded Maduro “apply legal instruments to accelerate the process of liberating political prisoners” and cease attempts to dissolve the National Assembly. The Spanish newspaper El Mundo notes that sixteen of the over 100 prisoners of conscience in Venezuela were released, but there is no indication more would follow.