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LATIN AMERICA | 13-07-2021 09:35

Venezuela's Maduro says Mexico to host talks with opposition

Venezuelan leader says Mexico will host talks between his government and the opposition, but insists he will only take part if international sanctions are lifted. Little comment on latest arrest of another opposition leader, Freddy Guevara.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said Monday that Mexico will host talks between his government and the opposition, but insisted he will only take part if international sanctions are lifted and he is protected from any plots to oust him.

Maduro's re-election in 2018 has not been recognized by either the opposition at home or by around 60 other countries – including the European Union and the United States.

Washington in particular has ramped up sanctions against Venezuela and its regime, putting huge pressure on a country that has plunged deeper into political, economic and humanitarian crisis.

"Norway has been promoting an international dialogue based in Mexico, and very well, we agree," Maduro said at a meeting with lawmakers at the presidential palace in Caracas.

"What we do not agree with is that some people who say they want to participate in the dialogue are preparing coups, financing criminals, terrorist attacks, and are planning assassinations," added the president.

 

New arrest

Maduro's comments come after the arrest of opposition leader Freddy Guevara, who was detained Monday by the secret police and will be charged with terrorism and treason, according to the prosecutor's office.

Guevara has been accused in the past of encouraging violence in protests that called for Maduro's departure, although the lawmaker was pardoned by the president last year.

Attorney General Tarek Saab said in a statement that Guevara, a close ally of opposition head Juan Guaidó, was detained by members of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin) due to "his links with extremist and paramilitary groups associated with the Colombian government."

"He will be charged with the crimes of terrorism, attacks against the constitutional order, conspiracy to commit a crime and treason," said Saab. 

Guevara, elected to parliament in the 2015 election that gave the opposition control of the assembly under Guaidó's leadership, has been accused in the past by the Socialist government of encouraging violence in protests that called for Maduro's departure. Some 125 were killed in the subsequent clashes that took place between April and July 2017. 

The 35-year-old former student leader posted on social media from inside his car as he was being intercepted by the intelligence agents on a Caracas highway. 

"Greetings to my family, I am very sorry that you are going through this suffering, I hope it is brief," Guevara said in a live broadcast. 

 

'Disguise themselves as Democrats'

Without referring to Guevara directly, Maduro said on Monday that some of those who have been pardoned "go free and immediately join in looking for criminals, paying for violent groups and preparing assassinations."

"They want to disguise themselves as democrats," but "they ally themselves with criminals," Maduro said without directly mentioning Guevara's case. 

The US and EU have said they are willing to review sanctions if negotiations in favour of "credible" elections advance.

Maduro insisted his participation in Mexico depended on whether the measures, which include an oil embargo by the United States, were lifted.

"We have proposed three conditions to go to Mexico," Maduro told lawmakers. "One, that the United States and the European Union lift all sanctions.

"Two, that all political sectors, by sitting down, recognise the validity and functioning of public powers and constitutionality of the country and its legitimate authorities.

"Three, that all sectors renounce violent plans with criminals, coups, assassination and other avenues of violence."

Regional elections are taking place in Venezuela in November, and Maduro has promised to respect the results should his opponents triumph in the mayoral and gubernatorial contests.

 

– TIMES/APF

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