January 18, 2018 / 5:47 PM / a year ago

Venezuela talks off in row over fugitive ex-policeman's death

FILE PHOTO: An ambulance is seen during a shootout between security forces and rogue Venezuelan helicopter pilot Oscar Perez, in Caracas, Venezuela January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Bello

CARACAS (Reuters) - Talks between Venezuela’s government and the opposition coalition foundered on Thursday after the opposition denied providing information that led to the death of a rogue former policeman and six other anti-government militants.

Oscar Perez, a photogenic former pilot who once starred in an action film, was killed on Monday along with six others in a police raid on a remote house.

Last year he used a hijacked helicopter to attack government buildings and stole weapons from a military base in what he called a rebellion against President Nicolas Maduro.

The opposition coalition, which had been due to meet government officials in the Dominican Republic, was furious at an accusation by Interior Minister Nestor Reverol that it provided information leading to the operation.

“We demand a rectification of these accusations,” the opposition said in a statement, confirming it was pulling out of Thursday’s talks but would be open to future meetings.

Previous attempts at talks, including one led by the Vatican, have failed in recent years.

Opposition leaders are demanding Maduro accept humanitarian assistance from abroad to ease a severe economic crisis that has led to shortages of food and medicines and is also calling for the release of several hundred jailed political activists.

Venezuelan authorities want the opposition to help pressure for an end to sanctions levied last year by the United States.

Both sides are also focused on a presidential election this year, although no date has been set.

Reporting Vivian Sequera and Andreina Aponte in Caracas; Writing by Girish Gupta; Editing by Leon Wietfeld and Susan Thomas

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