Venezuela president and opposition agree formal talks

National Police officers clash with anti-government demonstrators in Caracas on 6 April, 2014 There have been daily clashes between the security forces and protesters in some parts of Caracas

The Venezuelan government and a coalition of opposition parties have agreed to enter into "formal talks" to end weeks of anti-government protests.

At least 39 people, both opponents and supporters of the government, have died in protest-related violence.

Venezuelan Vice-President Jorge Arreaza said the two sides had agreed to hold talks "in public".

The opposition coalition had demanded that any negotiations be broadcast live on television and radio.

Respectful dialogue

Following preliminary talks on Tuesday, the opposition Democratic Unity coalition (MUD) and the government said they would meet more formally under the mediation of representatives from the Vatican and regional body Unasur.

President Nicolas Maduro said the talks had been tentatively scheduled for Thursday.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters after his meeting with representatives of the MUD and the Union of South American Nations in Caracas on 8 April, 2014 President Maduro said the preliminary meeting was "frank, direct and respectful"

"We spoke frankly, directly and respectfully. There were moments of tension, but we agreed to start a cycle of meetings," the president said.

But he ruled out any changes to the course of what he calls the Bolivarian revolution, the distinct brand of socialism created by his predecessor in office, Hugo Chavez.

"This is not a negotiation, nor a deal with anyone. What we will have is a debate, a dialogue, which is different. Neither will we try and convert them [the opposition] to Bolivarian socialism, nor will they convert us to capitalism," he said.

MUD Executive Secretary Ramon Guillermo Aveledo said a Vatican representative would act as a mediator "to help us in this difficult path".

Ramon Guillermo Aveledo (centre), Lara state Governor Henry Falcon (left) and opposition Congressman Omar Barbosa give a news conference after meeting with President Nicolas Maduro at the Foreign Ministry in Caracas on 8 April, 2014 The MUD opposition coalition said the dialogue would be held in a "respectful way"

The foreign ministers of Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador are also expected to attend the meeting.

No show

However, the Popular Will party which is part of the opposition MUD coalition, expressed scepticism about the formal talks.

Its leader, Leopoldo Lopez, who was detained in February on charges of inciting violence, said they were just for show.

Leopoldo Lopez's arrest 18 Feb 2014 Jailed Popular Will leader Leopoldo Lopez said the talks were a "political show"

In a series of messages sent from jail and published by his wife on Twitter, he said: "I believe deeply in dialogue, but in a dialogue of equals, not [with one side] on its knees.

"For 15 years, we have seen how the dictatorship conducts dialogue."

His party said it would not take part in the talks unless Mr Lopez was released.

The anti-government protests started in early February. with demonstrators demanding an end to Venezuela's high crime rate, its growing inflation and shortages of certain food staples.

They have since grown into a wide opposition movement and many of the protesters say they will not stop until the government of President Maduro resigns.

There have also been demonstrations in support of the government, with tens of thousands of people clad in red, the colour associated with the Bolivarian revolution, taking to the streets.

A man holds a cut-out of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez among a crowd of pro-government supporters in Caracas on 22 March, 2014 Government supporters have organised rallies to show their unwavering backing for President Maduro

More on This Story

From other news sites

* May require registration or subscription

More Latin America & Caribbean stories

RSS

Features

  • Cesc FabregasFair price?

    Have some football clubs overpaid for their new players?


  • Woman and hairdryerBlow back

    Would banning high-power appliances actually save energy?


  • Members of staff at James Stevenson Flags hold a Union Jack and Saltire flag UK minus Scotland

    Does the rest of the UK care if the Scots become independent?


  • Women doing ice bucket challengeChill factor

    How much has the Ice Bucket Challenge achieved?


  • Women in front of Windows XP posterUpgrade angst

    Readers share their experiences of replacing their operating system


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.