Members of Venezuela’s divided opposition begin talks with the gov’t

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro waves to supporters during a rally outside Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, Oct. 28, 2016.  (Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Some members of Venezuela’s divided opposition began talks with the government Sunday night as part of a Vatican-led attempt to defuse the country’s political crisis ahead of another big street protest to call for the removal of socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro arrived at a museum in western Caracas to formally kick off the talks, which many of his foes fear could be a stalling tactic designed to ease pressure on the leader who is widely unpopular over rocketing inflation and shortages of food and other basic goods.

Fifteen parties belonging to the Democratic Unity opposition alliance boycotted the talks, saying they were not prepared to sit across from the government until it released several jailed opposition activists and reversed its decision to cancel a constitutionally allowed recall referendum against Maduro.

“For an eventual dialogue to take place it has to be very clear from the outset that the aim is agreeing on the terms of a democratic transition in the remainder of 2016,” the parties said in a statement.

The talks come as the opposition is stepping up its campaign seeking to force Maduro from office.

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