CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A top official’s claim that Venezuelan opposition leaders helped reveal the hideout of a rebel police officer who was later killed by security forces stalled talks Thursday on resolving the country’s deep political and economic crisis.
Opposition politician Luis Florido said representatives would not be at negotiations in the Dominican Republic and are demanding an explanation of the comments by Interior Minister Nestor Reverol.
“Reverol lied to the Venezuelans,” Florido tweeted. “His statements hamper the meeting.”
Florido did not say when talks may resume, and there was no immediate comment from government officials.
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Reverol said in a televised appearance this week that during earlier negotiations, some political leaders had given “important information” about the whereabouts of a “terrorist cell” headed by Oscar Perez, who last year led a brazen helicopter attack on government buildings in Caracas.
Perez had urged Venezuelans to fight what he called President Nicolas Maduro’s tyrannical government and became one of the country’s most-wanted fugitives.
On Monday security forces tracked him down to a mountainside hideout on the outskirts of Caracas. In a series of online video posts, hunkered down with blood dripping on his face, Perez said officers were firing at the home and accused them of wanting to kill him instead of letting him surrender.
Perez, six people with him and two police officers were killed in the incident, and eight other agents were seriously wounded.
Government and opposition officials have been negotiating since late 2017 toward resolving a political impasse that saw more than 120 people killed and thousands detained last year in anti-Maduro protests.
Opposition leaders say the government must release dozens of political prisoners, recognize the authority of congress and allow humanitarian aid into the country. They are also pushing for guarantees that the presidential election expected this year will be free and fair.
Maduro’s cash-strapped government wants the opposition’s support as it tries to refinance Venezuela’s huge foreign debt and seeks relief from economic sanctions imposed by the Trump Administration.
Three days of negotiations last week ended with officials saying they were close to a deal, but without giving details. They had planned to resume Thursday.