Venezuela's Maduro agrees to Unasur-brokered opposition talks
- 8 April 2014
- From the section Latin America & Caribbean
Venezuela's President, Nicolas Maduro, is set to meet opposition leaders for the first time since the start of street protests that left 39 dead.
The meeting was proposed by foreign ministers belonging to the South American regional group Unasur.
The ministers are in the capital, Caracas, for talks aimed at trying to end the violence.
The unrest started nearly two months ago in reaction to high levels of violence, inflation and food shortages.
The Unasur commission had already visited Venezuela in late March in a bid to foster dialogue.
After meeting the top diplomats of Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia and other countries for more than one hour, Mr Maduro said he was ready to offer a "very positive message of peace" on Tuesday.
"We need a process to heal the wounds that the guarimbas [street barricades] and the coup attempt have left behind," Mr Maduro said, repeating the accusation that the protests were orchestrated with the objective of deposing him.
There has been no immediate response from the main opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, who had already previously said he was willing to meet with the government. So far no meeting has taken place.
Opposition parliamentarian Pedro Pablo Fernandez told EFE news agency that the latest developments could set forth an "agenda of dialogue".
"Unasur has been a good instance, a third party with which the government and the opposition have sat down and have had a rather positive attitude from the start," Mr Fernandez said.
At least 39 people, among them both government and opposition supporters, have died in connection to the protests.
The government blames "fascists" backed by foreign governments for the unrest, while the opposition accuses the security forces of using excessive force.
The authorities say they are investigating more than 80 cases of alleged human rights violations against government and opposition supporters, with 17 police and military officers allegedly involved.
The demonstrations are the largest in a decade and many of the protesters say they will not give up until the government resigns.
Government supporters have also been holding rallies to show their backing of President Maduro and his administration.