- Hugo Pérez Hernáiz contributes to WOLA's blog, Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. The views expressed are the author's own.
We have looked at some of the reactions by the opposition to the dialogue sessions with the government. As the talks enter their third session Thursday, we review some of the most important reactions by government leaders and supporters.
After the first session on April 11, President Nicolás Maduro struck a conciliatory tone by praising the will of the opposition to “finally come to dialogue,” and invited the students to participate. He also expressed willingness to look into the claims of human rights violations made by the opposition and several non-governmental organizations; but he denied that such cases are part of a state policy.
Despite participating in the first dialogue session, National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello has been the most outspoken critic from the government side. He actually shared his views during the first meeting, when he called [opposition leader Henrique] Capriles an “assassin” via Twitter while the latter was speaking. The next day Mr. Cabello addressed supporters with a fiery speech in which he said “the people should rest assured that in there [dialogue sessions] there is no negotiation [with the opposition].” He also said that the opposition leaders sitting in the talks “are the same ones that attempted the coup d’état of 2002, not one of them has changed, not even in their willingness.”
On his television program in Venezolana de Televisión on 22 April, Cabello announced that he had information that the opposition was planning to hire J.J. Rendón, an electoral publicist the government claims is the mastermind of a dirty media war against it. Cabello said that the hiring of Mr. Rendón casts doubt on the sincerity of the opposition leaders participating in the dialogue: “These people that sat around the dialogue table to bring calm to the country are going to hire J.J. Rendón? Can we believe in you [opposition coalition director Ramon Guillermo] Aveledo? Can we believe in you Capriles?” asked Cabello.
Pro-government journalist and ex-Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel wrote on April 21 that the dialogue between government and the opposition was a “success for the nation” and that it had happened because of the tenacity shown by President Maduro.
But he also seems to cast doubts on the success of the effort because he has information that the opposition “after the first phase of terrorist offensive against the Bolivarian government, is already planning a second [offensive].” He give no evidence of this but claimed that Interior Minsiter Rodríguez Torres has all the information about it: “He [Rodríguez Torres] has announced that the promoters of the terrorist guarimba [barricades] have the necessary logistics to go into the second phase of the plan, which continues to be the overthrow of President Maduro.”
A feel for reactions to the dialogues by some government supporters can be gained through the opinion articles of the popular pro-government web site Aporrea.org. Titles right before and after the first session, such as “Fascism does not want dialogue, only the exit of Maduro,” and “Dialogue, violence, and the patience of the people,” unsurprisingly reflect a deep distrust of the opposition leaders.
Others, such as “Dialogue is no substitute for popular struggle,” and this edition of the show Aporrea Radio: And what now? Peace talks or Rendition? reveal a fear that the sessions could lead the Maduro government to betray the Chavista project.
However, direct criticism of the Maduro government has decreased in Aporrea since the beginning of the protests in February as Chavismo has closed ranks around Maduro for the duration of the crisis. Most articles on the webpage praise the government for its dialogue efforts and express some hope of results: for example “Dialogue, hope for peace?,” and “Let he who is free from dialogue, throw the first stone.”