Venezuela Opposition Rejects Maduro’s Unconditional Talks

Venezuelan opposition said talks with the government to end two-month-long protests must be televised, mediated by a third party and have a set agenda after President Nicolas Maduro offered to meet his opponents today “without previous conditions or agenda.”

Maduro said the meeting had been proposed by a group of foreign ministers from the Union of South American States, or Unasur, visiting Caracas to broker an end to the crisis that has left at least 39 people dead.

“They proposed a meeting with the delegation from the opposition for tomorrow, and I accepted,” Maduro said on state television yesterday. “I’ll be ready, I’ll be there where Unasur tells me to be.”

The unrest started Feb. 4 when students demonstrated against a lack of security at universities, sparking nationwide marches organized by political opposition leaders eight days later over issues including rising crime, shortages of basic goods and accelerating inflation. Opposition leaders including two mayors and the leader of the Popular Will party, Leopoldo Lopez, have been jailed since on charges of inciting violence.

Opposition lawmaker Maria Corina Machado was stripped of her post last month for speaking at the Organization of American States in Washington on Panama’s invitation.

The government and the opposition, which received 51 and 49 percent of the vote respectively in the last presidential elections held last year, haven’t spoken publicly since the start of the protests. The Democratic Unity Roundtable opposition alliance said in a statement after meeting the Unasur delegation last night that Maduro must show good faith and stop repression to begin dialog.

Maduro said March 27 said that he would not accept any preset conditions for meeting his political opponents.

“To begin the dialogue there needs to be a clear gesture from the government,” Popular Will’s representative at the Unasur meeting, Luis Florido, said in a post on his Twitter account made after Maduro’s statement. Authorities “must free Leopoldo Lopez and the political prisoners. That’s our stance.”

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