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Venezuela resumes talks with the opposition, hoping the US will ease sanctions

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(Bloomberg) — The Venezuelan government and opposition have agreed to resume talks this weekend, ending a year-long deadlock and prompting the United States to ease oil sanctions, according to people familiar with the situation . may have opened the door

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President Nicolas Maduro and an opposition coalition will send representatives to Mexico to resume talks from November 26, the people said, who have not yet formally announced the process. The talks will include terms for Venezuela’s 2024 presidential election and could unlock $2.7 billion in government funds currently frozen by sanctions.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro said in a message on Twitter that talks would resume on November 25 and 26. However, he is not involved in the process.

An official announcement is expected as early as Wednesday from mediator Norway, which will be reinforced by Venezuelan delegations, the people said. The original plan is for the parties to meet in Mexico every 15 days.

The Norwegian Foreign Ministry declined to comment on details of the talks. Neither government nor opposition spokesmen responded to messages asking for comment.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has repeatedly said it will reevaluate its sanctions policy if the Maduro administration makes political concessions, starting with a return to rallies in Mexico. The first step could be a limited license to Chevron Corp, which would ease some of the financial restrictions on the California-based driller’s operations in Venezuela.

Read more: Chevron could increase Venezuelan oil production by 33% without sanctions

oil crisis

The easing of international economic sanctions could help the country pump more oil. Despite having the largest crude oil reserves in the world, Venezuela’s oil industry has been plagued by years of mismanagement, lack of investment and sanctions that limit the financial activities of US companies in the country.

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Production has fallen from more than 2 million barrels per day a decade ago to about 660,000 barrels per day.

A spokesman for the State Department said the US government supports the efforts of the opposition coalition known as the Unitary Platform and is deferring any further talks to them.

“The United States is not a party to the negotiations between the Unitary Forum and the Maduro regime,” the spokesman said.

The two sides are expected to open the meetings by signing an agreement that will unlock $2.7 billion in government funds currently frozen in international accounts, which will be used to rebuild the power grid and finance health projects. According to people familiar with the other initiatives. Situation. The people said the UN would oversee the work and manage the account.

Maduro desperately needs the money to keep the country’s recovery on track as the economy stagnates after the deepest collapse in world history that caused more than 7 million people to flee the country.

Several previous rounds of talks have failed, most recently in October 2021, when Maduro walked off the table after both sides reached only minor deals.

The government skipped those meetings after Maduro aide Alex Saab was extradited to the US on money laundering charges.

— With help from Alex Vasquez, Fabiola Zerpa and Nicole Yapur.

(Inserts President Petro’s comments in the third paragraph, US State Department’s comments in the ninth paragraph)

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