Venezuela’s Government, Opposition Find Common Ground on Covid
(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s government and opposition parties agreed to work together to respond to the Covid-19 and hunger crises using revenue from foreign assets, marking the first deal to come out of a new round of political negotiations.
The parties will coordinate to “obtain resources to address the social needs of the population, with special emphasis on the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic,” according to a statement published late Monday by the Norway Foreign Affairs Ministry, which is brokering the talks.
The partial agreement came after days of meetings in Mexico City, where the two sides held negotiations aimed at breaking a political impasse and solving a severe economic downturn. While expectations for a breakthrough are low after talks in previous years failed, the new round at the Mexican capital allows for interim deals on areas where the two sides have common ground, such as health care.
President Nicolas Maduro spoke one state TV after the meetings, saying “we succeeded in Mexico. We talked about the important issues of the economy, society, of the issues of the country.”
Under the deal, the sides will appoint representatives to a special working group. Jorge Rodriguez, who is leading the government’s delegation, said they could agree to try to tap funds frozen by foreign governments or multilateral institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, to buy vaccines and food.
“They can be used for the Covid response, to buy the rest of the vaccines, to supply hospitals, strengthen the food programs that Venezuela has, with the resources that belong to the people,” Rodriguez said on state television at the end of meetings that began Friday.
The parties also agreed to “defend the Esequibo,” a disputed territory near the border with Guyana. They plan to resume talks starting Sept. 24, he said.
Opposition representative Gerardo Blyde said the working group, which is being called the national roundtable for social attention, will include experts from both sides who will coordinate on health care and vaccinations.
The two sides will discuss the Venezuelan judicial system during the next round of talks, he said.
“We want to have a judiciary that’s independent, sovereign, that can make decisions without political interference,” Blyde said.
Representatives will also address access to the special drawing rights granted by the IMF to help fight the pandemic. Those rights are currently blocked.
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