Venezuela leader’s foes say no more talks without concessions

CARACAS: Venezuela’s opposition has ruled out returning to Vatican-led talks with President Nicolas Maduro’s government unless it makes major concessions amid a crushing economic crisis and bitter political standoff.
The opposition Democratic Unity coalition blames Maduro for the Opec nation’s shrinking and dysfunctional economy and wants to bring forward the next presidential vote, due in late 2018.
However Maduro, 54, the self-declared “son” of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, accuses the opposition of seeking a coup and sabotaging the economy to undermine him.
A Papal envoy, South American bloc Unasur and former heads of government from Spain, Panama and the Dominican Republic brought the feuding sides together at the end of October.
But the opposition walked out earlier this month, saying officials were reneging on accords to allow humanitarian aid, reform the national election board, free jailed activists and restore the National Assembly’s powers.
“If these demands … have not been satisfied by January 13, obviously there will be no conditions to re-establish dialogue,” said coalition head Jesus Torrealba, referring to the next potential date for talks mooted by mediators.
“They are mocking the Venezuelan people and the international community,” he told reporters.
Maduro, whose popularity has hit its lowest level of under 20 per cent, according to pollster Datanalisis, said his team would be ready for January 13 talks come what may. “I want to affirm to Pope Francis … my commitment to dialogue, peace and the word of God,” he told a radio show. — Reuters