Venezuela opposition says talks ‘in crisis’

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iol pic wld_VENEZUELA-PROTESTS-_0508_11 REUTERS An anti-government protester throws a tear gas canister back at the police during a protest against President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas. Picture: Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Caracas - Venezuela's opposition warned that talks with the government of President Nicolas Maduro are “in crisis” due to repression of student demonstrations and officials' refusal to grant concessions that could defuse three months of street protests.

Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, head of the opposition umbrella group MUD, said Socialist Party leaders have undermined the dialogue with constant insults and a refusal to consider amnesty for opposition-linked prisoners.

“We can say today, thirty days after the process started, that the dialogue is in crisis and it is the fault of the government,” said Aveledo in a statement late on Tuesday.

An opposition source said it was unlikely they would attend Thursday's scheduled next round of talks, which are being mediated by representatives of the Vatican and Unasur group of South American nations as a way to stem this year's unrest.

Maduro on Tuesday night said he did not plan to halt dialogue and hoped the next round would go forward.

The MUD is also seeking the release of demonstrators arrested during recent protests, as well as participation in the selection of new leaders of Venezuela's electoral council.

In what has been the OPEC member's worst unrest in a decade, at least 42 people have died in violence around the protests and about 800 have been injured. About 150 people remain in jail from nearly 3 000 rounded up since February.

Aveledo's comments may also be aimed at boosting pressure on the government to release former Caracas police commissioner Ivan Simonovis, who was sentenced to a 30-year prison term for his involvement in a 2002 coup that briefly ousted late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

Freeing Simonovis has been a rallying cry for the opposition. Supporters say Simonovis suffers osteoporosis and is held in a tiny cell without daylight.

While their political leaders argue, polls show that Venezuelans are far more concerned with scarcities of basic goods and violent crime than debates over human rights and democracy.


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