Fresh Venezuela talks set for September; opposition leader freed

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has remained in power despite US sanctions and diplomatic pressure

Representatives of Venezuela’s government and the opposition said they will resume talks next month after a round of preliminary meetings in Mexico City, just as opposition leader Freddy Guevara was released from prison on Sunday.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro told reporters on Monday that Guevara, who a month ago was arrested by intelligence agents while driving on a Caracas highway, had received a conditional release and could participate in the negotiation process.

“If he is named as a delegate to Mexico by the Unitary Platform of Venezuela, we would say Freddy Guevara is welcome at the dialogue,” Maduro told reporters, referring to the name of the opposition delegation.

The talks are aimed at overcoming Venezuela’s acute political and economic crisis, which has caused millions to flee the South American nation. Representatives of Norway acted as facilitators.

The two sides said in a joint statement they would meet again from Sept. 3-6 without saying where.

“We have discussed establishing a consultation mechanism with political and social actors that is as inclusive as possible,” they said in the statement, noting they would show the “utmost caution” before commenting on the process.

For the discussions to reach a potential agreement, Maduro has demanded that sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe on officials and institutions be lifted. Maduro told reporters that the talks “got off on the right foot” but also proposed direct negotiations with Washington about sanctions.

Venezuela says the sanctions are responsible for its economic crisis.

For its part, the opposition coalition wants humanitarian aid, including vaccines against COVID-19, to enter into Venezuela; the release of dozens of supporters whom it considers political prisoners; and guarantees it will be allowed to participate fairly in regional elections in November.

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