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South America Venezuela's opposition reluctantly return to talks

NEGOTIATORS for Venezuela’s pro-imperialist opposition accepted at the weekend that they would have to rejoin mediated talks in the Dominican Republic to have any role in April’s presidential election.

The decision ends days of speculation that the Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mud) coalition could abandon the negotiations after one of its biggest parties announced it was boycotting the talks.

“We are obliged to keep fighting in all arenas for electoral guarantees,” said Mud.

In agreeing to return to the negotiating table tomorrow, the opposition alliance said it would renew its push for guarantees that voting will be free and fair.

Those include allowing foreign election monitors, lifting an electoral ban on several opposition leaders and guaranteeing that Venezuelan exiles won’t be disenfranchised.

The national Constituent Assembly announced last week that an election will be held by the end of April.

While no date was set, President Nicolas Maduro announced immediately that he wants to run as the United Socialist Party (PSUV) candidate.

Interventionist foreign governments swiftly condemned the Constituent Assembly decision, claiming that it undercuts negotiations that the opposition has joined and boycotted on and off since December.

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday night that the Mud coalition is barred from participation, meaning that whichever candidate runs against Mr Maduro must do so under another ticket.

Several Mud leaders have been barred from standing for office following conviction for charges of violence and conspiracy.

French President Emmanuel Macron became the latest foreign leader to condemn Venezuela on Friday, declaring himself open to additional European Union sanctions because of an “unacceptable authoritarian shift.”

Caracas reacted by calling his statement “a hostile and unfriendly act by the leader of a nation with which Venezuela has cultivated historic and fraternal ties.”

It accused Mr Macron of trying to become “a faithful copy” of the US government.

The US Trump administration has said it won’t recognise the results of the presidential election, claiming that the vote would be “neither free nor fair.”

A coalition of 14 mostly conservative Latin American governments has issued a statement saying the early vote contradicts democratic principles and does not align with international standards.

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