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Venezuela Negotiations set to resume following row over upcoming presidential election

TALKS between Venezuela’s government and opposition were set to resume in the Dominican Republic yesterday following a row over April’s presidential election.

Chief government negotiator Jorge Rodriguez accused Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos of scuppering a deal at the last minute in a phone call to the opposition, Telesur reported.

Mr Rodriguez, who is also Venezuela’s communications minister, told reporters that the government delegation had already signed an agreement and was waiting for the Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mud) representatives to do the same.

He said all opposition demands were reflected in the “Agreement of Democratic Coexistence for Venezuela,” with just two points — electoral guarantees and a schedule — still outstanding.

Lead Mud negotiator Julio Borges said: “We haven’t signed, and nor will we, any agreement that isn’t dignified and worthy of the Venezuelan people.

“At the end, it will be history and the Venezuelan people who will judge our actions,” proclaimed Mr Borges, a leader of the hard-line Justice First party who serves as speaker of the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

In the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson threatened Venezuela on Sunday with an embargo on its vital oil exports over the election row.

Two weeks ago, Venezuela’s Supreme Court ruled that the opposition could not stand candidates under the Mud banner as it would breach a ban on “dual membership” of political parties.

At midnight on Tuesday, Dominican President Danilo Medina said he had asked both sides to return for talks yesterday morning.

“We have prepared a document that includes the recommendations the opposition has requested and we will receive them tomorrow at 10am,” Mr Medina said.

The government had also asked for two clauses to be included, one committing all parties to accept the election outcome “regardless of the results.”

The other concerns the recent row between the government and the United Nations about Guyana’s western Essequibo regions, the subject of a territorial dispute stretching back nearly 200 years.

Last week, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza criticised UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres’s decision to refer the matter to the International Court of Justice, whose jurisdiction neither country recognises.

Mr Rodriguez said the clause read: “The government and the opposition ratify the legitimate right of Venezuela over the territory of the Guayana Esequiba and request firm support for the actions undertaken by the republic in defence of its sovereign right over the Essequibo.”

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