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Carter in Venezuela to Promote National Dialogue

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has arrived in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday for a four-day visit which centers on promoting a national dialogue between President Hugo Chavez and opposition leaders. The opposition has already expressed pessimism about the mission's chances of success, following a coup attempt against Mr. Chavez earlier this year.

The former U.S. President is in Venezuela at the invitation of President Hugo Chavez, who was restored to power three months ago after a brief, two-day ouster at the hands of the opposition.

On returning to the presidential palace, Mr. Chavez immdiately set up a dialogue commission in hoping to heal the wounds. But his opponents said the commission was merely a talking shop. The country's current political crisis has reached dangerous levels, with frequent rumors that a fresh coup could be imminent.

Mr. Carter's main objective is to help get the two sides talking to one another. But political observers say the former U.S. leader is up against serious obstacles.

For the opposition, the best solution to the country's political crisis is for President Chavez to leave office, even though his term has over four years to run.

Many opposition leaders say Mr. Chavez is merely buying time by bringing in Mr. Carter. They would prefer international mediation by a body like the Organization of American States (OAS), something the government has ruled out.