Representatives of Venezuela's government and opposition coalition returned to the negotiating table Friday in the Dominican Republic to try to resolve the nation's long-running political and economic crisis.
Gathering Friday at the Foreign Ministry building in Santa Domingo, the negotiators have picked up where discussion left off two weeks ago.
Upon arriving at the talks, government spokesman Jorge Rodriguez saidhe expected them to address six points of agreement that have been under discussion already.
"I think we have advanced a lot, in the six agenda points that were planned for some time," he said. He added that "President Nicolas Maduro sends a message of thanks to the people of Dominican Republic." He said the president "insists that we look for a way to reach an agreement of peaceful coexistence in Venezuela."
The opposition Democratic Unity coalition demands free and transparent elections, the release of political prisoners, the restoration of the National Assembly's power, and opening of a humanitarian channel to deliver much-needed food, medicine and other staples to Venezuelans reeling after years of economic hardship.
The delegation representing President Nicolas Maduro's administration wants international sanctions lifted, including economic blockades imposed by the United States and European Union to pressure Maduro into restoring democratic measures.
The coalition also seeks an end to the disqualification of their main leaders ahead of presidential elections expected in 2018, "so that everyone can participate in an election process," said Luis Florido, a coalition negotiator.
Maduro, who took office in 2013, is considered likely to seek re-election. With the ruling Socialist Party's dominance in recent mayoral and gubernatorial electionswidely seen as fraudulenthe would be the favorite candidate.
Richard Blanco, a member of the opposition-led National Assembly and head of the recently formed opposition group July 16 Fraction, on Thursday expressed skepticism about the talks.
"There will not be any results here of any kind," he said. "You know that absolutely nothing will happen."