Venezuela's opposition coalition welcomes President Maduro's plan to jumpstart dialogue with the US

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks after signing an agreement to respect the results of the upcoming presidential elections, at the National Electoral Council headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, June 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's main opposition coalition on Tuesday welcomed President Nicolas Maduro's announcement the day before about his intentions to jumpstart negotiations with the United States this week.

The executive secretary of the U.S.-backed Unitary Platform coalition, Omar Barboza, told reporters that the alliance sees Maduro’s statement on Monday and his openness to dialogue only weeks away from Venezuela’s highly anticipated presidential election as a positive sign.

The coalition's negotiators will be ready to participate in bilateral discussions if they are needed, in the interest of the “electoral process and respect for democratic guarantees,” Barboza said.

“Differences must be resolved through peaceful means, through dialogue,” Barboza told reporters.

The U.S. has not confirmed any planned negotiations with the government of Maduro, who said talks with the Biden administration would resume on Wednesday. He described the dialogue as “urgent” during his weekly TV show.

Maduro has held parallel talks with the Biden administration and the opposition coalition for about two years, seeking to rid Venezuela of economic sanctions that cut off the oil-dependent country from Western markets, contributing to a complex crisis that began more than a decade ago. He has also sought to regain access to billions in assets frozen abroad.

For about two years, the talks moved ahead with fits and starts as Maduro released wrongly detained U.S. citizens and some political prisoners, while also promising to work with Barboza’s coalition to allow free and fair elections this year.

Maduro’s agreement last year to work on election conditions earned Venezuela broad relief from sanctions on its state-run oil, gas and mining sectors. But the Biden administration ended the relief earlier this year when Maduro reneged on his commitment to work with the opposition and increased repression against adversaries as the meteoric rise of opposition leader Maria Corina Machado cast a shadow on his prospects for reelection.

The July 28 election is shaping up to be the biggest challenge thar Venezuela’s ruling party has faced in its 25-year dominance that began when the fiery Hugo Chávez became president. The party wants to maintain its absolute control for six more years, but its base is divided and disenchanted over the social, economic and political crisis of the past 11 years — Maduro’s entire presidency.

Though Washington has not confirmed any planned talks, the U.S. National Security Council said Tuesday the Biden administration continues to welcome good-faith dialogue with Maduro but is clear-eyed that “democratic change will not be easy and requires serious commitment.”

The agency said the U.S. remains committed to supporting the will of the Venezuelan people and “a path toward democratic governance via competitive and inclusive elections.”

“I have received the proposal during two continuous months from the United States government to reestablish talks and direct dialogue,” Maduro said during the TV show. “After thinking about it for two months, I have accepted."

He added that Wednesday's restarting of the talks would focus on following up on agreements signed in Qatar, where Venezuela and the U.S. held talks in the past, "to reestablish the terms of the urgent dialogue.”