Venezuela and opposition may be talking soon

Mexican President Nicolas Maduro

The Venezuelan government and the political opposition are preparing to resume talks stalled for more than a year, people familiar with the process told reporters last Friday.

Three people — someone close to opposition leader Juan Guaidó and two people involved in negotiation preparations — said the delegations from the two sides might meet in Mexico City around mid-November.

They said the talks are expected to focus on a possible humanitarian aid program for cash-strapped Venezuela as well as on conditions for the country’s 2024 presidential election. There is also the issue of a U.S. extension for the oil company Chevron to operate in the South American nation.

However, the government of Mexican President Nicolas Maduro has yet to name representatives for the talks.

The last round of talks took place in Mexico City under the guidance of Norwegian diplomats last year. But the Maduro administration cancelled them in October 2021 following Cape Verde’s extradition to the U.S. of Maduro ally Alex Saab.

Juan Guaidó

There have been tensions between Washington and Caracas for years and they intensified after Maduro’s 2018 re-election. The U.S. and other nations charged the vote was marred by fraud, and they recognized Guaidó, then the leader of the National Assembly, as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

Venezuela’s years of economic crisis have contributed to an exodus of around 7 million Venezuelans from the once properous oil-exporting country.

A possible U.N.-administered $3 billion humanitarian relief fund would not be enough to reverse the country’s diminished oil revenues or the effects of U.S. sanctions, experts say. But it might ease the grinding poverty and shortages that many Venezuelans now suffer.

At the time Maduro suspended the talks, he conditioned a resumption on the release of Saab.

American authorities believe Saab has details on how Venezuela sells gold and tankers full of crude oil despite U.S. sanctions. They also say he holds secrets about corruption by Maduro, the president’s family and his top aides.

Federal prosecutors in Miami indicted Saab in 2019 on money-laundering charges connected to an alleged bribery scheme that purportedly siphoned off more than $350 million from a low-income housing project by the Venezuelan government.