Venezuela’s government and opposition resumed talks Friday evening aimed at easing a political standoff in the country stricken by a spiraling economic crisis.
The expectations for a breakthrough were low because the opposition is insisting on a recall referendum against Socialist President Nicolas Maduro, while the administration is showing little indication of agreeing to that.
The dialogue is part of a Vatican-led effort to defuse the country’s political crisis after Pope Francis met privately with Maduro.
The Vatican envoy, Monsignor Claudio Maria Celli, hailed the meeting as a good first step.
“I think it's very positive that the government delegation and the opposition have met, have spoken, facing delicate and important topics for the life of the country,” Celli said. “I see this moment as very positive. One of the ex-presidents used the word ‘miracle’ that the two delegations talk and do so in a respectful, attentive manner, because that is unquestionable.”
Talks open; Maduro not seen
Television footage showed four top Socialist Party officials and four counterparts from the opposition participating in the meeting, which was to continue Saturday. Also in attendance were representatives from the church and regional and international delegates. Maduro did not appear in the images.
A short time before the meeting got underway, Maduro declared he had done everything in his power to achieve a resolution with opposition leaders who for months had been seeking to remove him.
“I have done everything, both possible and impossible, for there to be peace talks with the right — without ultimatums and without bullying,” the socialist leader said.
In an attempt to defuse the country’s political crisis, Maduro and his political team met for the first time in two years October 30 with several opposition leaders, including Democratic Unity coalition Secretary-General Jesus Torrealba and opposition Governor Henri Falcon.
Mass street protests erupted after authorities last month blocked the opposition’s bid to hold a referendum on removing Maduro from office.
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.
Maduro’s political opponents have accused him of staging a coup by stopping the effort to hold a vote to remove him.