Venezuela talks to resume in January after government, opposition fail to reach deal

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[December 16, 2017]    CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's government and opposition leaders will hold a new round of talks in January after failing on Friday to reach an agreement to ease a deep political and economic crisis in the troubled OPEC country.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during the celebrations of the 13rd anniversary of the creation of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America - Peoples' Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP) and Act of Solidarity with Venezuela, in Havana, Cuba, December 14, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

Expectations have been low for the talks being held in the Dominican Republic. Some critics have described them as a stalling tactic by the ruling Socialist Party which is struggling to control a worsening economic crisis.

"We will meet again on January 11 for a meeting with the Venezuelan opposition," said Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez, leader of the government delegation, in a brief statement released by state television.

Opposition leaders are demanding that President Nicolas Maduro accept humanitarian assistance from abroad to ease the crisis, which has left millions of people unable to eat properly due to triple-digit inflation and chronic product shortages.

They also want the release of several hundred jailed opposition activists.

Government leaders want the opposition to help seek the elimination of sanctions by Washington, which have been levied this year by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump on accusations that Maduro is undermining democracy.

An initial round of talks two weeks ago in the Dominican Republic also ended without a agreement.

"We want an agreement that can be fulfilled," said opposition legislator Luis Florido. "Because we have not concluded discussion of all the issues, we need another meeting so that there can be a permanent agreement."

(Reporting by Deisy Buitrago, writing by Brian Ellsworth; editing by Clive McKeef)

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