- Title: Venezuela opposition says Vatican-brokered talks 'frozen', Maduro denies
- Date: 24th November 2016
- Summary: CARACAS, VENEZUELA (FILE) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF DIALOGUE BETWEEN VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION, GOVERNMENT, INCLUDING PRESIDENT NICOLAS MADURO, AND MEDIATORS
- Embargoed: 9th December 2016 02:28
- Keywords: Venezuela opposition dialogue Vatican President Nicolas Maduro Henrique Capriles
- Location: CARACAS, VENEZUELA
- City: CARACAS, VENEZUELA
- Country: Venezuela
- Topics: Diplomacy/Foreign Policy,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA00159O2M2R
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS MATERIAL WHICH WAS ORIGINALLY 4:3
Venezuela's opposition said on Wednesday (November 23) talks with the government were "frozen" after officials failed to attend meetings, throwing cold water on Vatican-brokered attempts to bridge the country's deep political crisis.
Though the formal talks, which began last month, appeared to have led to the release of a handful of detained activists, hopes for real rapprochement were always slim.
The two sides are fundamentally at loggerheads, with the opposition seeking the ouster of Socialist President Nicolas Maduro, while authorities vow he will not leave office before his term ends in 2019.
Opposition activists said authorities backed away after the National Assembly on Tuesday (November 22) held a heated session in which they slammed Maduro over a drug scandal.
Two nephews of Maduro's wife were found guilty this month on U.S. charges that they tried to carry out a multimillion-dollar drug deal to help their family stay in power.
"The government is using yesterday's debate in the National Assembly on the drug trafficking trial of two Venezuelan citizens linked to the family of Nicolas Maduro and Cilia Flores as an excuse to leave the (negotiating) table. For me it is simply an excuse," said opposition leader, Henrique Capriles.
The opposition leader has accused Maduro's government of not taking the talks seriously.
"We can now say, with even the pope saying he (Maduro) has made fun of the government, (he) permanently makes fun of Venezuelans. He was left naked in front of the Vatican, in front of the world, this has not been the change in negotiations that we had wanted. There have been no results," he added.
Maduro has issued differing accounts of the talks. Though acknowledging "difficulties" he said advances have been made between both sides.
"Dialogue has advanced. December is near and I believe that dialogue will consolidate and in January, February or March we will have a strengthened dialogue. President Rodriguez Zapatero has ratified all the commitments at all levels, the violations of the agreements, all the commitments to peace, tolerant dialogue and the desire for the country to advance o higher states of coexistence, especially now in December," Maduro said.
International figures trying to facilitate dialogue, including Spain's ex-Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and U.S. diplomat Thomas Shannon, have been shuttling between both sides to build consensus.
But deadlock still remains on many issues.
The opposition blames Maduro, who is unpopular, and has been vying to remove him via a recall referendum. The former bus driver and union leader, however, has said the opposition is seeking a coup against him and has vowed to end his term.
The situation in oil-rich Venezuela has worsened in the last months, with a recession leaving millions unable to find or afford food amid shortages and spiralling inflation.
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