Venezuelan rival sides set to break deadlock

ASSOCIATED PRESS
BOGOTA
Published 01.07.2019 00:10

Negotiations aimed at breaking Venezuela's political standoff will resume this week, likely on the Caribbean island of Barbados, according to three people familiar with the talks between representatives of President Nicolas Maduro and the U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

The sources, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither side has yet publicly confirmed its participation, said the location for the talks will be decided by the government of Norway, which is leading the mediation effort and hosted two previous rounds of exploratory talks in May. While Barbados is for now the preferred location, one opposition source said details were still being worked out and the site could be changed to Norway at the last minute.

The decision to resume talks came as Maduro's government on Saturday released 59 Colombians who rights groups said were arbitrarily detained in 2016. The U.N. immediately praised the move, which came days after a visit to Caracas by its top human rights official, Michelle Bachelet. It said it expects more prisoner releases in the coming days. In May, representatives of Venezuela's government and the opposition failed to reach an agreement in talks mediated by Norway. Maduro has insisted on dialogue with the opposition as the only way forward for Venezuela as crippling U.S. oil sanctions exacerbate a crisis marked by food, fuel and medicine shortages that have forced a whopping 4 million people — 10% of Venezuela's population — to flee the country in recent years.

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