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Venezuela Opposition Withdraws from Meeting with Government Officials

  • VOA News

Jesus Torrealba (C), secretary of Venezuela's coalition of opposition parties (MUD), Henry Ramos Allup (R), President of the National Assembly and Henri Falcon, governor of Lara, talk during a news conference to demand a referendum to remove President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, July 26, 2016.

Venezuela's opposition says it will not attend a meeting Tuesday with government officials, putting a halt to on ongoing talks intended to defuse the country’s political crisis.

Opposition spokesman Jesus Torrealba said authorities have yet to make compromises more than a month into the mediation effort, but he said opposition leaders are staying in the dialogue system.

Opposition leaders want to revive a suspended recall referendum that could lead to the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro and are demanding the release of political prisoners.

Maduro has rejected both demands, but added he is ready to talk.

With international mediators present in October, Maduro met with five opposition leaders, including Torrealba and opposition governor Henri Falcon in Caracas.

Afterward, he told Venezuelans during a televised speech that he was “willing to listen and, hopefully, be listened to, and find points in the common interest of the great majority of the country, of the national interests. I think that this is not the time for long speeches, but rather to assume a deep commitment.”

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, left, speaks with Congressman Hector Rodriguez during a meeting with students outside of Miraflores Presidential Palace to mark national Student Day in Caracas, Venezuela, Nov. 21, 2016.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, left, speaks with Congressman Hector Rodriguez during a meeting with students outside of Miraflores Presidential Palace to mark national Student Day in Caracas, Venezuela, Nov. 21, 2016.

If Maduro were to accept their demands, reports say, opposition concessions would then include the suspension of planned street protests and stopping a symbolic impeachment attempt in congress while abandoning efforts to seat three contested legislators.

"It would be insincere to keep sitting there as if nothing has happened," said Torrealba said. "The government is not only failing to fulfill its promises, it is denying all the agreements."

On Monday, more than 14 opposition political prisoners were taking part in a hunger strike to demand their release and allow a vote to proceed.

The initial dialogue between government and opposition leaders was a Vatican-led effort to defuse the country’s political crisis after Pope Francis met privately with Maduro.

"The government and the opposition committed to lowering the aggressiveness in the language used in political debate," said papal envoy Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli.

But socialist party leader Diosdado Cabello said the cardinal is taking a stricter approach with the government, while spending a greater time with the opposition.

Demonstrators clash with members of Venezuelan National Guard during a rally demanding a referendum to remove Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in San Cristobal, Oct. 26, 2016.

Demonstrators clash with members of Venezuelan National Guard during a rally demanding a referendum to remove Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in San Cristobal, Oct. 26, 2016.

"It’s irresponsible and disrespectful to think the Vatican is going to tutor Venezuela. When we say we're free and have sovereignty, it's because we're free and have sovereignty. We don't accept anyone trying to teach us," he said.

Polls show if the recall referendum is reinstated, Maduro would lose the presidency.

Maduro said blocking the referendum was an independent decision by the judicial and electoral authorities based on fraud allegations. He has distanced himself from the issue.

His political opponents have accused him of staging a “coup d’etat” by stopping the effort to hold a vote to remove him.

Some material for this report came from AP and AFP.

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