Jailed Venezuela Protest Leader Mocks Maduro Talks

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

Jailed Venezuelan protest leader Leopoldo Lopez scoffed on Friday at President Nicolas Maduro's efforts to open talks with opponents and businessman after a month of demonstrations and violence that have killed at least 17 people.

Maduro, 51, seems to have weathered the worst of an explosion of protests against his socialist government that exposed deep discontent with economic problems and brought the nation's worst unrest in a decade.

More than 250 people have been hurt in the unrest and another 500 or so arrested, authorities say. Venezuela's state prosecutor says 17 people have died, the latest victim shot while trying to dismantle a barricade in Carabobo state.

To try to ease the crisis further, Maduro has been holding talks with business and church leaders and some anti-government politicians.

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez gets into a National Guard armored vehicle in Caracas on Feb. 18.JORGE SILVA / Reuters

Lopez, a hardline opposition leader who faces charges of fomenting the violence, said Maduro's offer of dialogue was a hypocritical move to try to deflate the protests while failing to address the deep-seated problems behind them.

"'The dialogue' is a tactical retreat as a result of the pressure in the streets. It's not real conviction," Lopez said in a message from Ramo Verde military prison given to his wife, who tweeted it from his account, @leopoldolopez.

Most of the 55 people still behind bars are protesters, but seven intelligence agents and security officials have also been detained over the shooting of two people in downtown Caracas after a February 12 rally that sparked the worst trouble.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he was discussing with Colombia and other nations the possibility of international mediation in Venezuela.

— Reuters