CARACAS Dec 26 Venezuela's opposition on Monday
ruled out returning to Vatican-led talks with President Nicolas
Maduro's government unless it makes major concessions amid a
crushing economic crisis and bitter political standoff.
The opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition blames
Maduro for the OPEC nation's shrinking and dysfunctional economy
and wants to bring forward the next presidential vote, due in
But Maduro, 54, the self-declared "son" of late socialist
leader Hugo Chavez, accuses the MUD of seeking a coup and
sabotaging the economy to undermine him.
A Papal envoy, South American bloc Unasur and former heads
of government from Spain, Panama and the Dominican Republic
brought the feuding sides together at the end of October.
But the opposition walked out earlier this month, saying
government officials were reneging on accords to allow
humanitarian aid, reform the national election board, free
jailed activists and restore the National Assembly's powers.
"If these demands... have not been satisfied by Jan. 13,
obviously there will be no conditions to re-establish dialogue,"
said the coalition's executive-secretary, Jesus Torrealba,
referring to the next potential date for talks mooted by
"They are mocking the Venezuelan people and the
international community, which is extremely dangerous in the
context of an inflammatory social and economic situation,"
Torrealba told a news conference.
Maduro, whose popularity has hit its lowest level of under
20 percent according to pollster Datanalisis, says his foes are
not serious about dialogue and has threatened that the
opposition-led legislature may not exist much longer.
The government-leaning Supreme Court has ruled the National
Assembly is in "contempt" of the law.
Democratic Unity leaders say the coalition needs a re-launch
in the New Year with fresh tactics after the dialogue stalled
momentum from large street protests and a symbolic trial of
Maduro in the Assembly.
Hardline opposition leaders are pushing for a civil
disobedience campaign. But moderates believe that could lead to
more violence and play into the government's hands by allowing
Maduro to depict them as irresponsible troublemakers.
Opposition protests in 2014 led to 43 deaths and marches
this year have brought clashes with security forces.
Venezuela's 30 million people have had an austere Christmas,
with many unable to afford traditional meals, presents and
holidays at the beach. Inflation is the world's highest and many
products are scarce.
(Editing by Dan Grebler)