CNN —  

A group of former world leaders hosted meetings in the Dominican Republic this weekend in an effort to create a dialogue between Venezuela’s government and opposition representatives.

The talks were led by former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, former Dominican President Leonel Fernandez and former Panamanian President Martin Torrijos, by invitation of the secretary general of the UNASUR ( Union of South American Nations) pact.

In a statement, UNASUR categorized the meetings as “exploratory” and described them as a first step to “initiate national dialogue between government representatives from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the opposition represented by Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) party.”

Venezuela was represented by Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez, congressman Elias Jaua and Caracas Mayor Jorge Rodriguez.

On Twitter, Rodriguez said the meetings were a “first step” toward dialogue.

The MUD leadership confirmed the meetings with the former world leaders but denied any direct dialogue with representatives of Nicolas Maduro’s government.

MUD Executive Secretary Jesus Chuo Torrealba wrote on Twitter, “the only genuine dialogue that the Venezuelan people care about is the referendum vote, the freedom of prisoners and political exiles and attention to the victims of this humanitarian crisis.”

The U.S. State Department said Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to Zapatero and said the United States “supports political dialogues and peaceful and democratic solutions” and added, “the U.S. would support any solution agreed upon by the Venezuelan people, consistent with constitutional principles.”

Earlier this month, opposition leaders delivered 1.85 million signatures to electoral authorities to open recall referendum proceedings against Maduro.

This comes as the country faces shortages of basic goods like food and medicine, an energy crisis and crippling inflation.