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Venezuela Government and opposition close in on peace deal, minister says

VENEZUELA’S government and opposition are close to a peace deal, Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said last night.

The Venezuelan News Agency reported that talks at the Dominican Republic’s Foreign Ministry in Santo Domingo had adjourned for several hours so that the two delegations could hold separate meetings and then returned to the negotiating table.

Reporter Boris Castellano of Venezolana de Television said they were expected to reach a deal soon in the talks that began last Thursday.

The opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mud) coalition delegation includes national assembly speaker Julio Borges of the hardline Justice First party and Manuel Rosales of the more moderate New Era.

The talks are being brokered by Dominican President Danilo Medina, Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas and former Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Zapatero.

After the first direct meeting on Friday, Mr Vargas said the talks had not been successful.

But Venezuelan government delegation leader Mr Rodriguez stressed that the two sides were “very close to cementing an accord for coexistence and peace” between Venezuela’s political rivals.

Four months of Mud-fomented rioting starting last April left 124 people dead. Fears of a return to the violence were raised last week when three people were killed and 16 injured in food riots.

A summit meeting of regional bloc Alba’s political council in the Venezuelan capital Caracas pledged on Friday to defend Latin American and Caribbean unity against outside intervention.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro urged nations to adopt the petro crypto-currency his government plans to launch next month as an ”alternative to break the financial blockade” imposed on his country by the US and a financial base for “powerful intra-regional trade.”

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