Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro is set to meet with opposition leaders for talks aimed at ending the anti-government protests which have gripped the country over the past few months.
Maduro will meet with the opposition Thursday evening in the presidential palace Miraflores in Caracas. The meeting will be moderated by members of the regional bloc UNASUR, and a Vatican representative has also been invited. (Via Al Jazeera)
Venezuela has seen its worst unrest in years since protests began in early February. Violent street demonstrations prompted by poor economic conditions and shortages of basic goods have left at least 40 people dead, and over 600 injured. (Via BBC)
Several key members of the Democratic Unity opposition coalition have decided to attend the talks: among them Henrique Capriles, who narrowly lost the Presidential election to Maduro in 2013. Capriles has vowed to attend the talks "for peace and the construction of our country." (Via El Universal)
But there are some notable absences from the discussions — among them members the Popular Will party headed by Leopoldo Lopez, whose arrest in mid-February became a catalyst for anti-Maduro protests. (Via CNN)
Lopez's wife posted this message from him on Twitter. "I believe strongly in dialogue, but in dialogue on our feet, not our knees. After fifteen years, we know how [Maduro's] dictatorship conducts dialogue." (Via Twitter / @leopoldolopez)
Prominent conservative lawmaker María Corina Machado is also boycotting the talks, arguing they will simply help "stabilize the dictatorship" of Maduro. (Via Fusion)
And many international observers have low expectations for Thursday's negotiations. One analyst told Fox News Maduro's unlikely to entertain good faith negotiations with the opposition.
"His inspiration is Fidel Castro's Cuba. And that pretty much describes his intolerance of opposition, his intolerance of dissent."
The Los Angeles Times reports Maduro himself is setting a low bar for these talks, describing the meeting as a "debate" reporters, and assuring his supporters he won't negotiate the principles of his government.
Maduro's meeting with the opposition will be broadcast live on state TV and radio.