CARACAS, Venezuela, April 11 (UPI) -- Venezuelan opposition leaders sat down with President Nicolas Maduro late Thursday evening following months of unrest that has left 39 dead.
Maduro and opposition leaders earlier in the week accepted the Union of South American Nations' offer to mediate the peace talks. Both sides agreed that subsequent meetings would be needed.
Prior to their late-night meeting on Thursday, broadcast live via television and radio at the insistence of the opposition, 11 members of the opposition and 11 government representatives delivered opening remarks.
President Maduro spoke for more than 30 minutes, declaring the meeting was not a negotiation but a "dialogue."
That dialogue, however, was missing opposition hard-liners. Congresswoman and anti-Maduro opposition leader Maria Corina Machado boycotted the event, explaining via Twitter "We won't accept a dialogue to stabilize the dictatorship" and "We cannot have dialogue with students detained, mayors detained and [Leopoldo Lopez] detained, and while there’s repression."
The most prominent opposition leader present Thursday evening was Henrique Capriles, who lost by a margin of votes to Maduro in the April 2013 presidential elections.
Anti-government demonstrations began in Venezuela in February, demanding an end to goods shortages, inflation and high crime. Maduro's government has blamed foreign-backed "fascists" for the unrest while the opposition has claimed the security forces were to blame for the violence.