Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday said he wants the South American country to hold elections and he wants to restart talks with the opposition following weeks of protests. File Photo by Cristian Hernández/EPA
April 24 (UPI) -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called for talks with the opposition and backed holding local elections amid protests in which more than 21 people have died within three weeks.
"I am clinging to peace, to love, I'm clinging to dialogue and to fight every day for the motherland," Maduro said on Sunday.
Maduro made the comment during his televised "Sundays with Maduro" program.
A second round of talks between Maduro and the opposition, which is in control of the National Assembly unicameral parliament, broke down after the Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD, opposition coalition said it would not engage Maduro in further negotiations unless the president's regime fulfills previous agreements struck after first-round talks mediated by the Vatican in late October.
MUD said one agreement struck with Maduro was for the release of an election schedule. Venezuela was due for gubernatorial and mayoral elections in December, but the National Electoral Council, or CNE, delayed the vote.
"Elections. Yes, I want elections now," Maduro said on Sunday. "That is what I say as the head of state, and as the head of government."
When the CNE made the original announcement of the election delay in October, it said Venezuelans would be able to vote for the governors of the country's 23 states in the first half of 2017, followed by regional elections in which the mayors of Venezuela's 335 municipalities would be chosen by the end of 2017.
The CNE has not yet scheduled elections. The most recent protests in Venezuela began on March 30 after Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice, or TSJ, said it would assume the National Assembly's duties -- a ruling it later reversed. The opposition said the TSJ's move was akin to a coup d'etat in favor of Maduro's regime.
At least 21 Venezuelans have been killed since April 6 during protests, which have mostly been against Maduro's regime, though pro-government protesters have also taken to the streets. The Venezuelan opposition is holding another nationwide protest on Monday, following one on Saturday held to commemorate those who died in the protests.
Venezuelans also protested after the Maduro regime banned Henrique Capriles Radonski, governor of Venezuela's Miranda state and a key opposition leader, from holding elective office for 15 years.
The opposition blames Maduro's regime for the deaths, whereas Maduro blames the opposition. Maduro said the protests against him are a coup d'etat staged by the international community.
"I hope that they judge the perpetrators of the coup d'etat of 2017, they are responsible for the victims, they are fascists," Maduro said Sunday.