December 6, 2022

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Venezuela government, opposition to resume talks soon, sources say By Reuters

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© Reuters. Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro speaks at the meeting with Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro (not pictured) at Miraflores Palace, in Caracas, Venezuela November 1, 2022. REUTERS/Leonardo Fernandez Viloria

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By Marianna Parraga, Mayela Armas and Diego Oré

CARACAS/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Venezuela’s government and the country’s opposition plan to resume dialogues in Mexico as soon as this month after a long delay, and are expected to focus on negotiating conditions for a presidential election, four sources close to the talks said.

Last year, delegations representing President Nicolas Maduro and the opposition led by Juan Guaido made no progress on resolving the nation’s deep political crisis, which has stoked a sometimes-chaotic migration wave of over 7 million people.

“We are working on resuming the dialogue process in November,” said one of the people familiar with the arrangements.

Maduro and Colombia President Gustavo Petro said in a joint statement on Tuesday they hoped for “a successful return” to the dialogues.

The renewed talks, again facilitated by the Norwegian government, would cover the election, status of hundreds of political prisoners, U.S. sanctions on Venezuela and a “social agreement” that would enable distribution of $3 billion in goods and investment for humanitarian aid from a U.N.-administered fund.

Resumption of the dialogue has repeatedly been delayed by disagreements on terms, especially elections, a topic that may again force last-minute changes, including possibly postponing discussion to a second meeting, one of the sources said.

Venezuela’s information ministry, opposition’s envoy Gerardo Blyde, the Norwegian government and Mexico’s foreign affairs ministry did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Several parties warned Washington in October they are unwilling to support U.S.-backed Guaido’s interim government in 2023. This makes resumption of talks crucial for the opposition coalition, which has been diminished by exile, imprisonment of leaders, internal fractures and lack of funds.

The talks were abandoned by Maduro’s envoys a year ago after disagreements over the extradition of an ally of the Venezuelan president who faces money laundering charges.

Maduro had said his government would not return to talks unless all U.S. sanctions were lifted, while the opposition has insisted on guarantees for a fair and transparent presidential vote, supervised by foreign observers, in late 2023 or 2024.

The U.S. government has tried to encourage dialogue, easing some sanctions and freeing two relatives of the Venezuelan fist lady, who were jailed on drug trafficking charges.

Maduro also released six former executives of U.S.-based refiner Citgo Petroleum.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, trying to increase global oil supplies to bring down prices that have surged since Russia invaded Ukraine, has said the dialogue progress could trigger sanctions relief, including a license for U.S. oil company Chevron (NYSE:) to expand operations in Venezuela.

A growing influx of Venezuelan migrants to the United States is also prompting Washington to look for solutions to the South American country’s crisis.