Venezuela's government and opposition on Friday opened a new round of talks in an effort to bridge deep and entrenched differences to find a way to end the dire political and economic crisis tearing apart their country.
Delegations from both sides were seen arriving at the foreign ministry in Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic, which is hosting the second meeting after a first on December 1 and 2 yielded what was termed "significant advances."
"We have made a fair bit of progress on the six points on the agenda and today we will work on the operative part," government chief negotiator Jorge Rodriguez said.
Each side has its priorities in the talks, which foreign ministers from several Latin American nations are overseeing as guarantors of the process.
The Venezuelan government is demanding an end to what it calls economic "sabotage" it claims is being waged by the opposition with support from the United States and Colombia.
The opposition is seeking guarantees that presidential elections next year are transparent and fair.
The government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is feeling politically strengthened after winning local elections last weekend in which the main opposition groups were excluded and after mostly triumphing in October gubernatorial polls.
However an opposition advisor, Colette Capriles, said those victories merely showed that Maduro was using the tactics of "contemporary dictatorships."
Despite broad unpopularity at home and stern pressure from most countries in the Americas, Maduro has been able to tighten his grip on power in Venezuela, in large part because of a weak and fractured opposition.
The opposition is divided over the talks. Some in the coalition dismiss them as nothing more than an attempt by Maduro to buy time as he continues to consolidate power.
Over the last three months his public support has risen from 24 percent to 31 percent, according to surveys by the Venebarometro firm. The opposition coalition, the United Democratic Roundtable, over the same period saw negativity toward its image increase from 46 percent to 66 percent.
Venezuela, once Latin America's richest country thanks to its vast oil reserves, is on the brink of default after a long slide into penury which has seen supplies of food and medicine become scarce and hundreds of thousands emigrate to survive.