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Venezuela and opposition to resume talks in Barbados, mediator Norway says

Colombia and other countries have tried in recent months to restart negotiations between the sides, but the government of President Nicolás Maduro has demanded that the U.S. drop economic sanctions and unfreeze Venezuelan funds held overseas as a condition of resuming talks

El presidente Nicolás Maduro en una conferencia en el Palacio de Miraflores el 16 de agosto de 2023.
President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, during a press conference at Miraflores Palace, August 16, 2023.Carlos Becerra (Bloomberg)

Venezuela’s government and opposition will resume their dialogue, mediated by Norway, with talks scheduled for Tuesday in Barbados, Norway’s embassy in Mexico said Monday in a brief statement posted to the platform X. Mexico hosted multiple rounds of talks in 2021 and 2022. When they last met, in November 2022, the sides agreed to create a U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor while the U.S. government agreed to allow oil giant Chevron to pump Venezuelan oil.

Colombia and other countries have tried in recent months to restart negotiations between the sides, but the government of President Nicolás Maduro has demanded that the U.S. drop economic sanctions and unfreeze Venezuelan funds held overseas as a condition of resuming talks.

Norway’s statement Monday said that the two sides had decided to resume the dialogue “with the objective of reaching a political agreement.” Venezuela’s government did not immediately comment. A U.S. official who requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive negotiations said there was no “deal” between the U.S. government and Venezuela. The official said the Biden administration supports Venezuelan-led negotiations and is prepared to provide relief from sanctions in response to concrete actions toward holding competitive elections.

The dialogue formally began in September 2021, but President Maduro’s delegates walked away from negotiations in October 2021 after Colombia-born businessman Alex Saab was extradited on money laundering charges from Cape Verde to the U.S. Maduro conditioned a resumption on the release of Saab.

The political, social and economic crisis that has come to define Venezuela has evolved since it began a decade ago as a result of a global drop in the price of oil, Venezuela’s most valuable resource, mismanagement by the self-proclaimed socialist administration and government repression of its opponents. A brief period of relative economic stability has again been shaken by jumping food prices, business closures and another wave of emigration.

Some members of the Venezuelan opposition celebrated Norway’s announcement. Luis Florido, a former exiled opposition lawmaker, said on X that only through negotiations would Venezuelans be able to restore democracy through the ballot box. “You won’t get everything you want, but you will make progress,” he said of the negotiations. The talks were scheduled to take place in Bridgetown, Barbados.

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