Venezuelan Government and Opposition Announce Plans to Begin Talks
Announcement follows President Nicolás Maduro’s surprise visit to Vatican to meet with Pope Francis
Hours earlier on Monday, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro met Pope Francis at the Vatican in what was called a surprise visit.
The talks between the government and the opposition will begin on Sunday on Venezuela’s Margarita Island and will be mediated by the Vatican and the Union of South American States, known as Unasur, a spokesman for Mr. Maduro and the head of the Democratic Unity Roundtable opposition alliance, Jesus Torrealba, said in a joint press conference.
The announcement took many opposition leaders by surprise, risking a split in the opposition alliance at the crucial moment when the government is cracking down on the last vestiges of electoral democracy.
It came just a day after opposition lawmakers in the National Assembly said they planned to stage hearings Tuesday to being the process of forcing Mr. Maduro out of office. On Thursday, government authorities had suspended the opposition’s efforts to hold a recall referendum against Mr. Maduro, taking away the opposition’s best hope of removing the government and sparking protests.
Many leading opposition figures, including former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles and Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, said they found out about the planned talks from watching televised news, raising questions about the alliance’s union.
“Yesterday, the entire opposition agreed on a rebellion and the ouster of Maduro tomorrow,” Maria Corina Machado, an opposition leader, said via her official Twitter TWTR -0.33 % account. “Again, another ‘dialogue’ to save Maduro?”
Michael Shifter, who heads the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington, said he, too, found it “surprising to me that the opposition would be willing to sit down, given all that the government has promised in the past and having seen no results.”
—Kejal Vyas in Bogotá contributed to this article.Write to Anatoly Kurmanaev at Anatoly.firstname.lastname@example.org