Venezuela's opposition has ruled out resuming talks with the government over the country's economic and political crisis in January despite a request from the Vatican and the Unasur bloc of South American nations. The opposition claimed the government of President Nicolas Maduro had failed to meet several demands.
"Conditions do not exist for the return to direct dialogue between the parties on January 13," Jesus Torrealba, the secretary of the Democratic Unity (MUD) opposition coalition, said. Torrealba said the Vatican's letter urged for an electoral calendar that would "allow Venezuelans to decide their future without delays".
The coalition claims Maduro is to blame for the country's dysfunctional economy and is calling for the next presidential election, which is not due until December 2018, to be brought forward. The Vatican's letter appeared to suggest early elections to replace Maduro, whose popularity hit its lowest level under 20% according to Datanalisis.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that Maduro's government also rejected the Vatican's letter, calling it an "ultimatum". The 54-year-old self-proclaimed "son" of the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez accuses the coalition of wanting a coup and damaging the economy in order to hurt him.
The Vatican, Unasur, and the former heads of government from Spain, Panama and the Dominican Republic, were able to bring the two sides for talks at the end of October, Reuters reported. However, the opposition left the talks, claiming the government had failed to comply with agreements allowing humanitarian aid, freeing jailed activists, reforming the national election board and restoring the National Assembly's powers.
"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 said.
Opposition leaders called for the coalition to meet in the new year with new tactics to use against Maduro.