CARACAS Venezuela’s opposition said on Tuesday talks with President Nicolas Maduro’s administration were off until the leftist government keeps promises on elections and foreign aid, casting further doubt on Vatican-brokered attempts to alleviate the country’s deep political crisis.
The formal talks, which began in October with facilitators from the Vatican, appeared to have led to the release of a handful of detained activists, but hopes for real rapprochement have always been slim.
The two sides are at loggerheads, with the opposition seeking the ouster of socialist Maduro, while authorities have vowed he would not leave office before his term ends in 2019.
“We’ll only sit down with the government again once they meet what was agreed on,” opposition coalition Jesus Torrealba said after a meeting with facilitators. The opposition had been scheduled to meet with government representatives, but did not show up.
The two sides had previously reached tentative agreements, including potentially letting foreign donors provide food and medicine to the country and working toward replacing directors of the national elections authority, whom the opposition has called government puppets.
The government has not fulfilled these promises, the opposition said, and too many activists remain in jail.
Both sides, however, will continue to meet with the dialogue’s facilitators, Torrealba said. He added that they had made proposals to restart the dialogue “so that it can be useful for the country and yield results.”
Dialogue has divided the diverse opposition coalition, with some activists and politicians feeling the government was duping them to buy time.
The situation in oil-rich Venezuela has worsened in recent months, with a recession leaving millions unable to find or afford food amid shortages and spiralling inflation.
The opposition blames Maduro, who has an approval rating of 20 percent, and has been vying to remove him via a recall referendum. The former bus driver and union leader has said the opposition is seeking a coup against him and has vowed to finish his term.
(Reporting by Corina Pons; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Richard Chang)