Venezuela's government and opposition to meet on Sunday

Venezuela's government and opposition to meet on Sunday
By Catherine Hardy  with AFP, EFE

The news comes as protests dubbed "The takeover of Venezuela" are planned for Wednesday

Venezuela’s socialist government and opposition are to hold talks this coming Sunday.

A drive to hold a referendum to remove the unpopular President Nicolas Maduro was recently suspended.

There have been protests and a worsening political stand-off since then.

Many of the country’s 30 million people fear the situation will create more unrest in the nation.

It is already exhausted by political confrontation, a plunging economy and rampant crime.

The details

The government, opposition and the Vatican’s envoy to Venezuela say the two sides will meet on Margarita Island for talks.

There is no indication Maduro will participate in Sunday’s talks.

What are the chances of success?

Slim, experts say.

Past conversations between the bitterly polarised sides have led to little progress.

The opposition says Maduro is inept and must leave office before the crisis worsens.

However, he has vowed not to be pushed out by what he describes as a power-hungry elite seeking a coup.

The backstory

Opponents say 53-year-old Maduro has veered openly into dictatorship.

They claim he has sidelined the opposition-led congress, jailed opponents and leaned on compliant judicial and electoral authorities to stop the referendum.

Turning up the pressure, the opposition-led National Assembly this weekend began proceedings to put Maduro on trial for violating democracy.

“We want freedom!”

Several hundred students have burned rubbish and set up roadblocks in the volatile border city of San Cristobal.

The city is a hotbed of anti-Maduro sentiment.

It was the site of the worst violence during protests two years ago that led to 43 deaths around the nation.

There were other scattered protests around Venezuela, including in the capital, Caracas.

The protesters chanted, “We want freedom!”

Mainstream opposition leaders are concentrating their efforts on Wednesday this week.

Wednesday’s protests

The opposition has called for nationwide protests on Wednesday.

The day of rallies has been dubbed “The Takeover of Venezuela”.

The Vatican connection

Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader, travelled to the Vatican on Monday.

He met with Pope Francis, who urged him to alleviate people’s suffering to solve the crisis.

The Vatican agreed in September to accompany a dialogue between Maduro and his foes.

This has yet to get underway.

Angry scenes in the National Assembly

Maduro’s supporters stormed the opposition-led National Assembly on Sunday.

Lawmakers inside had vowed to put Maduro on trial for violating democracy.

The session was briefly interrupted when around 100 apparently pro-government protesters stormed in, brandishing Socialist Party signs and shouting, “The Assembly will fall!” before officials herded them out.

The measure is unlikely to get any support.

However, observers say it marks a further escalation of political tension.

What they are saying

“This dialogue is now crystallising,” – Socialist Party official Jorge Rodriguez says the Vatican and the regional bloc UNASUR will be present at talks on Sunday.

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