Representatives from the Venezuelan government and opposition met in Mexico City on Friday to begin a round of discussions aimed at resolving the country’s catastrophic political and economic crisis, which has forced millions of people to escape the Latin American country.
Unlike past meetings, the negotiations will involve more than a dozen countries, including the Netherlands, Russia, Bolivia, Turkey, and Norway, which will serve as a facilitator.
The parties agreed to a memorandum of understanding outlining the road map that will govern the dialogue process at the National Museum of Anthropology.
For the talks to advance to a potential agreement, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro demands that sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe on officials and institutions be lifted. Venezuela says the sanctions are responsible for the OPEC member’s economic crisis.
For its part, the opposition coalition calls to allow 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 in regional elections in November.
“We already know what we do not agree on. … The job now is to find points of confluence to guarantee the future and the happiness of the people of Venezuela,” Jorge Rodriguez, president of Venezuela’s parliament, said at the beginning of the talks.
The return to the negotiating table represents a turnaround for the opposition, which in the past accused Maduro of using dialogue to buy time and defuse international pressure. The Venezuelan government abandoned the 2019 dialogue, which took place in Barbados and Norway, after the United States tightened sanctions.
“Today we are beginning the second stage of a negotiation process that we know will be complex, which will surely have very difficult moments,” said Gerardo Blyde, chair of the Venezuelan opposition delegation.
“Between these two sidewalks where each party supports narratives that seem diametrically opposed is a street full of hopeless and suffering citizens, our people,” he added.
Since entering office in January, US President Joe Biden has not eased sanctions against Venezuela’s financial and energy sectors, and he has maintained his support for opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself temporary president in January 2019 after alleging fraud in Maduro’s 2018 re-election.
“On the basis of significant progress in the negotiations, we are willing to reassess our sanctions measures. But that is exactly what we require: considerable progress “On Thursday, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.
The Venezuelan crisis has triggered a tremendous exodus that, according to the Organization of American States, would reach 7 million people by 2022, making it the world’s greatest, surpassing Syria.