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              Saturday 2 december 2017
            Venezuela talks focus on elections, financial crisis

            By T. FERNANDEZ                                                                        said that "if I were Venezu-  guez,  who  led  the  gov-
            S. SMITH                                                                               elan,  I  wouldn't  go  to  the   ernment  delegation,  said
            Associated Press                                                                       dialogue."                   the  current  leadership  is
            SANTO DOMINGO, Domini-                                                                 Reflecting  those  tensions,   capable  of  enforcing  fair
            can Republic (AP) — Ven-                                                               the  opposition  delegation   elections,  despite  charges
            ezuela's  socialist  govern-                                                           led  by  National  Assembly   by critics.
            ment  and  its  opposition                                                             President  Julio  Borges  for   "In this negotiation process,
            sought  Friday  to  jumpstart                                                          the first time included rep-  yes,  we  will  listen  to  what
            negotiations  on  resolving                                                            resentatives  from  civil  so-  the  opposition  has  to  say"
            the  country's  economic                                                               ciety  groups.  He  said  that   Rodriguez said. "But we will
            and  political  crisis,  pres-                                                         would  add  transparency     forcefully  demand  an  im-
            sured    by   international                                                            to the closed-door talks.    mediate  stop  to  the  eco-
            sanctions  and  a  looming                                                             Borges said the opposition   nomic aggressions against
            presidential election.                                                                 is  repeating  longstanding   Venezuela."
            The    planned    two-day                                                              demands that the govern-
            meetings in the Dominican    Venezuelan government representatives, from left to right,   ment  release  dozens  of   Lending  urgency  to  the
            Republic  are  the  first  for-  diplomat Roy Chaderton, Constitutional Assembly President   political  prisoners,  recog-  talks  is  Venezuela's  spiral-
            mal talks since anti-govern-  Delcy Rodriguez, Minister of Communications Jorge Rodriguez,   nize  the  National  Assem-  ing  financial  crisis.  Despite
            ment protests collapsed in   and former Vice President Elias Jaua, pose for a photo at the   bly's  authority  and  allow   holding  the  world's  largest
            July with a toll of more than   Ministry of Foreign Affairs, before taking part in negotiations   humanitarian   aid.   And   oil  reserves,  the  OPEC  na-
                                         aimed at resolving Venezuela's ongoing economic and politi-
            120  dead  and  thousands    cal crisis, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Friday, Dec.   the opposition will push for   tion has been battered by
            detained. Given the scant    1, 2017.                                                  guarantees that next year's   the fall in crude prices and
            results of previous attempts                              (AP Photo/Tatiana Fernandez)  presidential election will be   by  a  slide  in  production.
            at dialogue, including talks                                                           free and fair, he said.      The  resulting  cash  crunch
            last year mediated by the    mands, analysts said.        unexpected  victory  in  re-  "We  come  today  deter-    has    aggravated     eco-
            Vatican,  expectations  are   "I  don't  think  we've  seen   cent  gubernatorial  elec-  mined  to  fight  for  basic   nomic problems that have
            low.                         the stars align like we have   tions,  several  opposition   rights,  such  as  the  right  to   Venezuelans   struggling
            But  some  analysts  ex-     at this moment," said Geoff   parties are boycotting the   vote, the right to democra-  with  skyrocketing  inflation
            pressed  optimism  a  deal   Ramsey,  a  Venezuela  re-   talks as well as this month's   cy," Borges said upon arriv-  and shortages of food and
            could  be  struck  because   searcher  at  the  Washing-  mayoral  elections.  They    ing, adding that they could   medicine.
            the  cash-strapped  admin-   ton  Office  on  Latin  Ameri-  say  such  things  legitimize   also take to the streets and
            istration  of  President  Nico-  ca.                      Maduro's "dictatorship."     rally international pressure.  Financial   sanctions   im-
            las  Maduro  is  desperately   Just  the  fact  that  the  two   The hardliners have won a   "We  hope  to  defend  the   posed  by  the  Trump  ad-
            looking for support as it tries   sides  agreed  to  talk  is  a   sympathetic ear from inter-  rights that have been tak-  ministration  in  retaliation
            to  refinance  Venezuela's   sign of progress.            national  critics,  including   en  from  Venezuelans,"  he   for  Venezuela's  alleged
            huge  foreign  debt.  That   Still smarting from their be-  Luis  Almagro,  the  head  of   said.                   human     rights   violations
            will  give  the  opposition  a   lief  the  government  com-  the Organization of Ameri-  Venezuelan  Communica-    threaten  to  exacerbate
            foothold  to  press  their  de-  mitted fraud to pull off an   can States, who this week   tions  Minister  Jorge  Rodri-  the pain.q

                                                                                                   Amid disturbances,

                                                                                                   Honduras says to hand

                                                                                                   count final votes

                                                                                                   By FREDDY CUEVAS             vote  counts  and  that  no
                                                                                                   Associated Press             announcements  would  be
                                                                                                   TEGUCIGALPA,     Honduras  made  until  there  is  a  final
                                                                                                   (AP) — Honduras' electoral  result.
                                                                                                   court has finished counting
                                                                                                   nearly  95  percent  of  the  After  speaking  with  repre-
                                                                                                   vote  boxes  from  last  Sun-  sentatives  of  the  opposi-
                                                                                                   day's  presidential  election  tion  alliance  and  the  Na-
                                                                                                   and  was  to  begin  a  hand  tional  Party,  Matamoros
                                                                                                   count of 1,031 other boxes  said Friday that each party
                                                                                                   that  presented  "inconsis-  would be able to accredit
                                                                                                   tencies" on Friday.          60 people to participate in
                                                                                                   Incumbent  President  Juan  the afternoon count along-
                                                                                                   Orlando Hernandez held a  side  international  observ-
                                                                                                   lead  of  more  than  46,000  ers.  He  estimated  it  could
                                                                                                   votes  over  challenger  Sal-  take six hours.
                                                                                                   vador  Nasralla  before  the  But  the  opposition  pub-
                                                                                                   last-stage  count.  It  was  lished a list of demands that
                                                                                                   not immediately clear how  included a broader review
                                                                                                   many  votes  could  be  at  of votes in three jurisdictions
                                                                                                   play in the uncounted box-   where it alleges voter turn-
                                                                                                   es.                          out was unusually high and
                                                                                                   Electoral  court  president  said  the  number  of  ballot
                                                                                                   David Matamoros said late  boxes that presented issues
                                                                                                   Thursday  that  representa-  was  far  larger.  It  was  un-
                                                                                                   tives of the political parties  clear if its demands would
                                                                                                   would  be  present  for  the  be met.q
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