CARACAS, Venezuela, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD, opposition leaders met on Sunday in Caracas for crisis-related talks mediated by the Vatican.
Maduro shook hands with MUD leader Jesus "Chuo" Torrealba, who said the president left the meeting after 10 minutes while the MUD continued to speak with Vatican representative Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli -- sent by Pope Francis -- and other government officials.
Maduro's regime has maintained there is no alternative other than dialogue to resolve Venezuela's political crisis, which has been exacerbated by deepening economic crisis. The opposition, though previously reluctant to hold talks with Maduro, accepted negotiations with the ruling government due to the involvement by the Vatican and other mediators.
"We believe, respect and value Pope Francis and whatever call from the Vatican, we will be there!" Henrique Capriles Radonski, a former presidential candidate and current governor of Venezuela's Miranda state, said in a statement.
The opposition seeks to oust Maduro from power through a recall referendum triggered through a constitutional process, which was made more difficult and ultimately suspended by Venezuelan institutions accused of making decisions favorable to Maduro's socialist regime.
Former political leaders from the Dominican Republic, Panama and Spain attended the negotiations as mediators.
"I want to thank the political parties of the MUD for their presence at the installation of the dialogue process," Maduro said during the meeting. "We must be optimistic when it comes to peace."
Maduro's regime and the opposition have accused one another of violating Venezuela's Constitution -- both likening the others' actions as a coup d'etat.
The opposition, which controls the National Assembly, accuses Venezuela's institutions of making decisions to keep Maduro's socialist regime in power, while Maduro's regime accuses the opposition of undermining democracy by working with pro-capitalist companies and international actors, including the United States, to destabilize his government and the economy.