Venezuela freed three anti-government activists and the opposition postponed a symbolic trial in congress of President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday even as it warned it would quit Vatican-backed talks in a matter of days if tough conditions were not met. The Vatican-sponsored talks between the government and the opposition are due to begin on November 11 with the aim to ease the country's economic and political crisis.
The opposition has accused Maduro of violating the constitution by helping block a referendum which looked to remove the president from power. However, Maduro blamed the opposition for attempting a “coup” against the government by planning said referendum.
The recall referendum sought by the opposition to oust Maduro over his inefficient rule during a crippling economic crisis was scrapped last month after the government termed it a meaningless exercise.
The opposition-dominated National Assembly’s decision to put off its proceedings against Maduro is a sign of the opposition's desire to seek a solution to the crisis through talks, speaker Henry Ramos Allup said.
Maduro foes in #Venezuela call off protests. Up until now," says Ramos Allup, "with the clashing & confrontation, we've achieved nothing,
— Juan Forero (@WSJForero) November 1, 2016
Ramos Allup added an opposition march to Maduro's presidential palace planned for Thursday has also been postponed.
The opposition has, however, demanded that the government release around 100 jailed opposition activists and bring forward the next presidential election. Venezuela's presidential polls are due in late 2018.
Analysts had called the "trial" of Maduro by the lawmakers symbolic at best, as the constitution does not allow for such a process against the president.
Maduro himself had dismissed the exercise as invalid and a “coup” attempt against the government. He vowed to throw participants in jail.
The opposition's retreat is an indication that it sees negotiations as the best option, rather than testing its ability to rally the public to its side.
Besides the Vatican, three former heads of state from Panama, Dominican Republic and Spain are trying to foster dialogue in Venezuela. The regional bloc Unasur, the union of South American nations, is also involved in negotiations.
Senior US diplomat Tom Shannon is also in Caracas and met with Maduro on Monday to try and support the talks.
Having narrowly won the elections in 2013 to replace Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer, Maduro has seen his popularity plummet. His fall from grace is largely due to the OPEC nation's unprecedented economic crisis.