Venezuela calls on US to reopen diplomatic ties

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AFP) — Venezuela's socialist government on Wednesday called on the United States to restore diplomatic ties with Caracas after it opened talks with fringe opposition parties.

Venezuela broke off relations with the United States after Washington recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president on January 23.

Vice President Delcy Rodriguez told reporters in Caracas that it made sense for the US "to restore diplomatic contacts and dialogue with the government."

Rodriguez said Washington was left with only "a single path" having failed to remove Maduro from power, and that was "negotiation and diplomatic communication".

President Donald Trump's administration had targeted Venezuela's oil industry and Maduro's inner circle with a raft of economic sanctions.

The US blames Maduro for the economic collapse of Venezuela, from which millions have fled due to basic shortages, and considers him illegitimate after widespread reports of irregularities in last year's election.

Both Maduro and Trump said last month that talks had been taking place involving senior officials from both sides.

Rodriguez also welcomed Monday's agreement between the government and minority opposition parties — outside of Guaido's coalition— to open negotiations on political changes aimed at resolving Venezuela's crisis.

Former presidential candidate Javier Bertucci joined the pact on Wednesday.

The agreement involves the return of socialist lawmakers to the opposition-dominated National Assembly and the release of political prisoners.

Guaido's deputy as National Assembly leader, Edgar Zambrano, was the first to be released late Tuesday. Zambrano said 58 other opposition figures would be released from Wednesday.

The Assembly's deputy vice-president Stalin Gonzalez said Wednesday that the agreement would allow Maduro "to cling to power".

The government deal with fringe opposition parties is clearly aimed at trying to sideline Guaido, by flooding his power base with pro-Maduro members.

In a defiant move on Tuesday, the National Assembly confirmed Guaido as its leader.


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