OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria announced Thursday that Venezuelan government and opposition representatives spoke for the first time about an electoral solution to the country's ongoing political crisis.
Gaviria told journalists that although this does not imply that the parties are close to an agreement on holding an election that might see President Hugo Chavez leave office, at least they began to discuss the matter, which is the "main, difficult and complete" issue dividing the two sides.
"The meeting was rather tense at first, but the tension passed and they began to talk about the electoral solution. Obviously, one cannot say that we are close to an agreement, but today they talked frankly about an electoral way out," Gaviria said.
He emphasized that the government and opposition representatives have "a lot of agreement" with certain of the 24 points he presented Wednesday as a framework for a solution to the crisis. He said at the time the list constituted "a series of fundamental principles for agreement." Gaviria said in brief remarks to the press that both sides reviewed the text of the 24 points, whose "paragraphs could become part of a general accord." The OAS chief explained that the parties also talked about the need to defuse the climate of violence and help strengthen the electoral system.
"I cannot say that this is a good result, but we have advanced this week, and I believe that the fact that we are working on distinct aspects (of the matter) is positive," Gaviria said in the Caracas hotel that serves as the seat for the talks.
The OAS head is mediating the talks between the two sides. He also represents the U.N. Development Program and the Carter Center. The negotiations are being conducted in the midst of an 18-day-old general strike staged by the opposition - which has also paralyzed the country's vital oil industry - designed to force Chavez from power.
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