A group of former presidents has held secret meetings with members of Venezuela's opposition and government representatives in the Dominican Republic in an attempt at mediating the South American nation's political standoff.

Opposition alliance leader Jesus Torrealba confirms that the meetings took place under the auspices of the Union of South American Nations.

But he said Saturday that there was no face-to-face encounter. Instead the two sides exchanged messages through the ex-presidents from Spain, Panama and the Dominican Republic.

Telesur reported that the Venezuelan government was represented by Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez and two top officials in the ruling socialist party. Three lawmakers represented the opposition.

The country is suffering from a severe economic crisis marked by triple-digit inflation and shortages of basic goods.