In Venezuela Rivals make progress on crisis negotiations

Venezuelan government and opposition delegates agreed Thursday to a group of "friendly countries" to assist with crisis negotiations, Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina said.

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Dominican Republic's President Danilo Medina (L) and former Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero talk to the press outside the Dominican Foreign Ministery in Santo Domingo after mediation meeting in Venezuela September 13, 2017 play

Dominican Republic's President Danilo Medina (L) and former Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero talk to the press outside the Dominican Foreign Ministery in Santo Domingo after mediation meeting in Venezuela September 13, 2017

(afp/AFP)
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Venezuelan government and opposition delegates agreed Thursday to a group of "friendly countries" to assist with crisis negotiations, Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina said.

"We made progress in defining an agenda of Venezuela's problems. A commission of friendly countries that will serve as a monitoring commission was agreed on, and includes Mexico, Chile, Bolivia and Nicaragua," the president said in a brief statement to journalists.

Officials from both sides began exploratory talks Wednesday with mediators led by President Medina and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the former Spanish prime minister.

Medina, who is hosting the mediation effort in the Dominican capital Santo Domingo, said after the first day of talks there was a "real willingness to reach a form of negotiation."

As of early Thursday, though, there had been little hope of progress.

"The economic, social and humanitarian problems are increasingly serious, if we do not take care of them, there will be no dialogue," warned opposition leader Julio Borges on Twitter.

International powers accuse President Nicolas Maduro of dismantling democracy by taking over state institutions in a bid to counter opposition pressure for him to quit, as the country suffers an economic crisis that has caused dire shortages of food and medicine.

They accused him of a blatant power grab in July with the formation of a Constituent Assembly packed with his allies, wresting legislative power from the opposition-dominated national assembly

Maduro, elected to lead the oil-rich country in 2013, weathered months of street protests from April to July that killed 125 people amid mounting opposition demands that he step down.

Borges last week won the support of Britain, France, Germany and Spain during a tour of European capitals, upping the pressure on Maduro to reach a compromise.

"The international community has finally opened its eyes," political commentator Carlos Romero told AFP.

"The government is cornered and given the political and economic crisis, it suits it to have a kind of armistice," he said.

According to the opposition, the government had insisted any negotiations recognize the legitimacy of the Constituent Assembly.

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