CARACAS Venezuela's opposition and the government of President Nicolas Maduro are set to meet on Friday as part of a Vatican-backed dialogue process meant to ease a political standoff taking place amid a spiraling economic crisis.Neither side appeared optimistic, with the opposition insisting on a recall referendum against Maduro and the government showing little indication of agreeing to that.The government released a small group of jailed opposition activists following the start of talks last week, and the opposition postponed a political trial in Congress against Maduro and canceled a march to the presidential palace.But Jesus Torrealba, Executive Secretary of the opposition's Democratic Unity coalition, on Friday said Maduro's adversaries were ready to resume confrontation."The truce is over, what's coming is struggle," said Torrealba. "There is no contradiction between struggle and dialogue."
The meeting is scheduled for late afternoon. The first meeting between the two sides, held on Sunday Oct 30, stretched well into dawn hours.The political crisis intensified in recent weeks after elections authorities scuttled an opposition effort to request a recall against Maduro following accusations of fraud in a preliminary signature drive.The opposition accuses the 53-year-old president of being responsible for the country's crisis, which includes triple-digit inflation, a recession and shortages of food and medicine.
Maduro, who was elected president in 2013 after the death of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, calls the situation the result of an "economic war" led by the opposition in efforts to unseat him.For the dialogue to continue, the opposition is insisting that the government release more than a hundred jailed activists, allow international humanitarian assistance, and name a new board of directors to the elections council.
They also have demanded respect for decisions by the opposition-led Congress, which has had nearly every one of its measures shot down by the country's top court.Maduro in turn has demanded that Congress respect a top court sentence that effectively stripped the opposition of a super majority won last year, a sentence the opposition maintains was fraudulent. (Reporting by Diego Oré, additional reporting by Eyanir Chinea, writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by David Gregorio)
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