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Venezuela government and foes resume talks, breakthrough unlikely

From Reuters - December 1, 2017

SANTO DOMINGO/CARACAS (Reuters) - Members of Venezuelas leftist government and opposition coalition began a new round of talks in the Dominican Republic on Friday aimed at resolving the OPEC nations long-running and often bloody political standoff.

Various mediation efforts have failed in recent years: foes accuse President Nicolas Maduro of exploiting dialogue to buy time, while he says the opposition prefers violence.

Few Venezuelans expect a breakthrough this time, with opponents demoralized at seeing Maduro consolidate power and position himself for possible re-election in 2018.

The Democratic Unity coalition - which failed to dislodge Maduro in months of street protests this year that led to about 125 deaths - is pressing primarily for a guarantee of free and fair voting next year.

It also wants a foreign humanitarian aid corridor to alleviate one of the worst economic crises in modern history, as well as freedom for several hundred jailed activists, and respect for the opposition-led congress.

Weve come to seek solutions to Venezuelas problems: food, medicines, free elections, and the need to restore democracy, lead opposition negotiator Julio Borges said.

Its a difficult path.

The oppositions bargaining power has been weakened by a surprising defeat in October gubernatorial elections. Furthermore, the multi-party group is divided, with more militant sectors opposing the talks.

The dialogue they are planning to start is a parody ... an instrument for the regime to gain time and keep itself in power, said Antonio Ledezma, an opposition leader who escaped house arrest this month to seek asylum abroad.

U.S. FACTOR

Maduro has instructed negotiators to focus on opposition to U.S. sanctions against his government. He was strengthened by the October vote and anticipates another win in mayoral elections set for December, which the opposition is mainly boycotting.

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