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Venezuelan government, opposition resume talks in Barbados

July 15, 2019

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The Venezuelan government and the opposition are resuming talks aimed at ending the political crisis in their country, the country’s information minister said Monday.

Jorge Rodríguez said on Twitter that he and the rest of the government’s delegation have arrived for negotiations in the Caribbean nation of Barbados, where several days of talks were also held last week.

Rodríguez was flanked by representatives including Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza and Miranda state Gov. Héctor Rodríguez in the video message. Chief opposition negotiator Stalin González earlier confirmed that his delegation was returning to Barbados for talks mediated by Norway.

Negotiations between the adversaries have collapsed in previous years and major issues remain contentious. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó contends President Nicolás Maduro’s re-election last year was invalid and wants early presidential elections. The government accuses the opposition of fomenting violence.

As the political dispute drags on, Venezuela is sinking deeper into an economic and humanitarian crisis that has led millions of people to leave the country in recent years.

Also Monday, a small group of demonstrators gathered outside a United Nations office in Caracas to protest alleged torture of anti-government activists by Venezuela’s military intelligence unit.

Delsa Solórzano, an opposition lawmaker, said some detainees had been denied food and medicine, and that their conversations had been recorded during prison visits by family members. The Venezuelan government did not immediately comment on the allegations, though it has said a U.N. report chronicling torture, sexual abuse and extrajudicial killings by government security forces is inaccurate.

Last week, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s military intelligence agency, which is accused of torturing to death navy Capt. Rafael Acosta in custody last month. The sanctions appear to be largely symbolic because they prohibit Americans’ dealings with the agency, which likely has few already.

Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said Monday that the talks between the Venezuelan government and opposition were a priority, but that they should not be a “shield against sanctions” for Acosta’s killers and others involved in violence and repression.

The United States had already imposed wider sanctions on Venezuela to try to dislodge Maduro, compounding hardship in a country whose economy, including its key oil industry, has been in sharp decline for many years.

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