By Nicole Kolster
Caracas, Aug 17 (EFE).- Venezuelans have widely diverging expectations about the current talks between the government and opposition that kicked off last week in Mexico City, with some people very hopeful for a breakthrough but most expressing either indifference or varying degrees of pessimism.
A retiree and supporter of the current left-wing administration, a housewife who is paying little attention and a skeptical and embittered engineer typify the range of attitudes toward this latest attempt at political reconciliation, a process that follows failed talks in 2018 and 2019 in the Dominican Republic and Barbados, respectively.
President Nicolas Maduro’s administration is demanding the lifting of sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies, recognition of the country’s “legitimate authorities” and the renunciation of violence.
The US, the European Union, the United Kingdom and other countries refuse to recognize Maduro because they say his 2018 re-election victory was marred by fraud. In 2019, they instead recognized the then-head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as that South American country’s legitimate head of state.
Guaido is still seen as Venezuela’s legitimate leader by the US and the United Kingdom – though not the EU – even though he is no longer the head of parliament.
Venezuela’s opposition, for its part, is demanding conditions that ensure “free, fair and transparent” elections, as well as the release of prisoners they say are behind bars for political reasons and the entry of humanitarian aid.
Despite previous failures, 72-year-old retiree and Maduro supporter Victor Urdaneta told Efe that he sees this latest attempt at dialogue as “quite positive” and expects the talks will lead to a lifting of international sanctions on Venezuela and its lifeblood oil industry.
But Tibisay Rojas, a 69-year-old housewife, said she does not know who the participants are or what items are on the agenda and thus cannot comment on the talks. She said only that she hopes the delegations take into account the problems affecting her and thousands of other people in the crisis-hit country.
Daniel Contreras, 65, said he is keeping himself well informed about the negotiations. But having observed previous talks go nowhere, he said he is taking a wait-and-see attitude and keeping his expectations low.
“They’ve already had several meetings, several cycles, and no agreements have been reached in previous processes,” he told Efe.
Mauricio, a mechanical engineer who did not provide his age or last name, emphatically stated that the negotiations are a complete waste of time.
“You’re going to tell me that during all this time the government hasn’t been able to solve the economic issues we have?” he asked rhetorically, though adding that the opposition is equally “useless.”
The consulting firm ORC Consultores, meanwhile, said it has identified in its most recent studies a phenomenon whereby most Venezuelans feel no attachment to any of their leaders across multiple spheres of public life.
The company’s head, Oswaldo Ramirez, told Efe that citizens’ “expectations today about the negotiations are relatively low.”
“There’s no connection with Nicolas Maduro, nor is there a connection with Juan Guaido. There’s no connection with labor leaders. There’s no connection with business leaders, media figures. There’s no connection with religious figures,” he said.
“The ordinary citizen is expecting that the severe crisis (affecting) public services will be resolved, that conditions will be put in place to have a better quality of life,” Ramirez said.
Venezuelan citizens have suffered through nearly eight years of recession and four years of hyperinflation that have caused the value of the local currency, the bolivar, to plummet and triggered widespread use of the dollar.
According to ORC Consultores, 80 percent of Venezuelans want “change” but that does not mean that eight in 10 Venezuelans would vote for the current opposition hopefuls. EFE