Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s right-hand man Diosdado Cabello has ruled out early elections despite talks between representatives of the government and the opposition in Barbados.
Maduro’s removal from office has been a key demand of the opposition, which is led by Juan Guaido, the National Assembly head who declared himself acting president in January.
But Cabello, who heads the pro-regime Constituent Assembly and is considered the country’s second most powerful politician, insisted there would be no early elections to replace Maduro.
“They say: the government’s going to Barbados because there are going to be presidential elections in I don’t know how long and the candidates are X and Y,” he told state television channel VTV.
“Here there are no presidential elections, here the president’s name is Nicolas Maduro,” Cabello said. Before the talks began on Monday, Guaido had said the opposition would attend “to establish a negotiation on the end of the dictatorship.”
After they began, Maduro said he was “optimistic … we can find a path to peace.” An initial round of talks had been held in Norway but they made no apparent progress.
Late Wednesday, Maduro’s chief negotiator, Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez said there had been “a successful exchange” and thanked Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley for hosting the talks. He quoted Maduro as saying, “Some progress has been made.”
Venezuela has been in a deep recession for five years with shortages of food and medicine and failing public services causing great hardships for ordinary people. Around a quarter of the 30 million population are in need of aid, according to the United Nations, while three million people have left the country since the start of 2016.
Guaido and the opposition accused Maduro of having rigged the 2018 poll that saw him re-elected and describe the socialist leader as a “usurper.” They want him to stand down so new elections can be held.
The talks almost did not take place as Guido had said last week negotiations would not be re-opened following the death of an officer in custody over an alleged coup plot. The suspicious death of retired naval officer Rafael Acosta Arevalo had sparked international condemnation.
Some in the opposition are opposed to negotiations, believing they may reinvigorate Maduro, but Guaido urged them to have faith insisting that everything was designed to bring about an “end to the usurpation, a transitional government and free elections.”
Credit: France24, www.france24.com