Christian Veron/Reuters

Talks progress in Venezuela as protests continue

Opposition leaders criticized government for rejecting proposed amnesty for those arrested during unrest

Negotiators for the government and the opposition have agreed to broaden membership in a truth commission that is to investigate who is to blame for 41 deaths tied to weeks of political unrest in Venezuela.

Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin, who is one of the outside facilitators in the talks, on Wednesday called the step a sign of "progress" in the effort to calm Venezuela's political unrest.

But opposition leaders criticized the government for not accepting a proposal for amnesty to be granted to people arrested during the protests. During the talks Wednesday, hundreds of university students staged another anti-government demonstration late in the day, marching barefoot in what they said was penance for the country's economic and crime problems.

The agreement on the truth commission was announced following hours of negotiations that took place Tuesday night behind closed doors in what both sides described as a much-needed if torturous attempt at dialogue in a nation polarized by 15 years of socialist rule.

Heading into the meeting the government had insisted that any investigation of the protests be led by Congress, which it dominates. But it partially met the opposition's demands for an independent commission by agreeing to include national figures trusted by both sides.

The talks, which began last week, are being sponsored by the Vatican as well as Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador.

The talks, brokered by a group of South American foreign ministers, are aimed at ending the impasse between President Nicolás Maduro’s government and his political opponents, some of whom have been jailed for allegedly inciting violence.

Maduro — elected to office just over a one year ago by a wafer-thin margin — called for talks soon after the protests began, but the main Venezuelan opposition group and student protesters have refused as long as they have jailed supporters.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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