CARACAS, Venezuela -- A meeting billed as a national dialogue for local and state officials in troubled Venezuela convened Monday without the country's most prominent opposition leader.
Gov. Henrique Capriles, the opposition candidate in the last two presidential elections, said he would not attend the meeting called by President Nicol°s Maduro amid political turmoil that has engulfed the country in recent weeks.
Capriles did not say whether he would also sit out a national peace conference called by the president for Wednesday. Capriles, governor of wealthy Miranda state, told reporters attending Monday's meeting would look like an endorsement for a government that he says has engaged in "repression" as troops and police have clashed with protesters.
"I am not going to make Nicolas Maduro look good... That is what they want, that I go there as if the country was absolutely normal," he said.
Capriles also said he would not participate while another opposition leader, Leopoldo Lòpez, remains jailed along with dozens of others who have taken part in anti-government protests.
Lòpez, a former mayor of a district in the capital, is being held in a military jail outside Caracas on charges that include criminal incitement of violence for organizing a mass opposition rally Feb. 12 that was followed by clashes that resulted in three deaths and set off waves of unrest that have roiled Venezuela ever since.
His wife, Lillian Tintori, said Lòpez believes the time is not right for members of the opposition to sit down with Maduro. "Look at the statements from Nicol°s Maduro, every time he speaks, he insults us, he speaks with aggression, speaks with hate," she said following a news conference to announce a march Wednesday by opposition women.
-- The Associated Press