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  • Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero arrives in Venezuela to help facilitate direct talks between the government and the opposition, July 8, 2016.

    Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero arrives in Venezuela to help facilitate direct talks between the government and the opposition, July 8, 2016. | Photo: EFE

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The Venezuelan opposition coalition finally agreed to direct talks but set out a series of preconditions.

Caracas mayor and leading socialist politician Jorge Rodriguez celebrated the fact that the country's right-wing opposition coalition finally accepted a long-standing proposal from the government to sit down and negotiate a peaceful resolution Venezuela's present challenges.

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"The only positive thing is that, although it is a little late, although they have tried to sow violence, (the opposition) has accepted the call for dialogue made by our President Nicolas Maduro,” said Rodriguez on Friday.

The opposition was trying to avoid having to negotiate with the government, hoping instead to unseat the democratically elected Maduro from power. 

However the MUD, as the opposition coalition is known, experienced a series of setbacks, most notably the decision by member-states of the Organization of American States to not pursue the suspension of Venezuela from the regional bloc.

Opposition leaders, however, set out a series of conditions for the talks, including a call for more mediators to participate. 

The MUD also asked for Venezuela's electoral authority to issue a clear timetable regarding a potential recall referendum to revoke Maduro's mandate.

The Venezuelan constitution allows for a referendum to take place after the mid-point of a president's term. The opposition however dragged its feet due to internal divisions and did not begin the lengthy process to hold the referendum until recent.

If the referendum takes place in 2017, should he lose the vote, Maduro would hand power over to his executive vice-president instead of convening fresh elections.

Rodriguez called on the opposition to participate in direct talks without any preconditions.

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In recent months there have been a series of abortive efforts to have the government and opposition sit down together. A dialogue effort led by a team from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has thus far been the most successful, though even in that case the two sides have met separately with mediators.

Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero arrived in Venezuela on Friday to take part in UNASUR's efforts at dialogue.

Zapatero said he would once again meet separately with each delegation but said his goal was to get the government and the opposition to sit down together.

A spokesperson from the U.S. Department of State welcomed the news that the opposition had agreed to talks.

“We continue to support the efforts by former Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero, former Panamanian President Torrijos and former Dominican President Fernandez to advance such a dialogue. We strongly urge both sides to participate constructively to address peacefully the serious challenges facing the Venezuelan people,” read a brief statement by Assistant Secretary John Kirby.

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OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro recently criticized UNASUR's efforts to promote dialogue, saying that had not produced results.

Almagro has been largely sidelined from the discussion after a series of undiplomatic statements and actions compromised his neutrality.

The OAS head presented a lengthy document criticizing the government of Nicolas Maduro at a recent meeting of the Permanent Council, although member-states did vote to discuss it, they declined to pursue sanctions against Venezuela, opting to promote dialogue instead.

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