CARACAS – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro appealed on Thursday to the opposition to join him for talks on peace and reconciliation ahead of upcoming elections to a constitutional convention that critics say is aimed at consolidating what they see as a dictatorship.
“Abandon the path of insurrection,” Maduro said on the second day of a general strike organized by the MUD opposition coalition.
If the opposition declines to take part in his proposed “national roundtable of understanding,” it will be the prerogative of the Constituent Assembly elected next Sunday to convene an “obligatory” dialogue, the leftist president told supporters in Caracas.
He did not say whether a positive response to his appeal for talks would lead him to consider abandoning the Constituent Assembly initiative.
MUD, meanwhile, vowed to defy authorities’ ban of a march planned for Friday in the capital.
“Faced with another violation of the rights of the people ... tomorrow will be the Taking of Venezuela,” opposition leader Henrique Capriles said on Twitter, calling for a nationwide mobilization against the Maduro government.
He spoke out after the Interior Ministry barred public demonstrations viewed as likely to “disturb the electoral process.”
Since April 1, more than 100 Venezuelans – including both opponents and supporters of the government – have died in the course of protests and associated disturbances.
At least three people have died in incidents associated with the current general strike, organized by MUD with support from Venezuela’s main business federation, Fedecamaras, which backed the abortive 2002 coup against Maduro’s predecessor and political mentor, the late Hugo Chavez.
Strike proponents urged citizens to block streets and many responded by erecting barricades of furniture and garbage, leading in some cases to clashes between protesters and police.
Figures on both sides of Venezuela’s political divide have been talking about the need for a dialogue to defuse the growing confrontation, but none of the protagonists has shown any inclination to compromise.