Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro said Monday he was “optimistic” after dialogue between his government and the opposition resumed in Barbados.
The South American nation was plunged into political turmoil in January when National Assembly speaker Juan Guaido declared himself acting president in a direct challenge to Maduro’s authority.
The opposition leader is recognized by the United States and more than 50 other countries, but has been unable to dislodge Venezuela’s socialist leader, who is backed by Russia, China and Cuba.
Delegations from both sides arrived in Barbados Monday morning to revive discussions, after a previous round in Norway petered out.
“I am very optimistic… Today they had a five-hour session, and I think that step by step, with strategic patience, we can find a path to peace,” Maduro said in a broadcast on the state television channel VTV.
Without giving details, he said that a six-point agenda was being discussed with “the whole country in mind.”
“If you work with goodwill and there is no American interventionism, I am sure that we will reach an agreement,” said Maduro, who blames the United States for fanning the crisis.
The Barbados talks will be the third round since the Oslo talks in May, although Guaido had originally said last Tuesday there were no plans to re-open talks with Maduro’s “murderous dictatorship” following the death of an officer in custody over an alleged coup plot.
The suspicious death of retired naval officer Rafael Acosta Arevalo had sparked international condemnation.
Guaido said Sunday he wants the talks to lead them towards Maduro’s departure from the presidency he has held since 2013 to a transitional government, and then “free elections with international observers”.
Ravaged by crises
Some members of the opposition oppose the Barbados talks, fearing they may reinvigorate Maduro, but Enrique Marquez, vice president of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, said they are the best option.
“A violent solution… could generate loss of governance even for a new government,” he told AFP.
Along with the negotiations in Barbados, Guaido had a closed-door meeting on Monday in the capital Caracas with Enrique Iglesias, the European Union’s special advisor for Venezuela.
Afterwards, Iglesias met with Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez.
“Iglesias has confirmed his commitment to the dialogue process,” Rodriguez said on Twitter.
Oil-rich Venezuela has been ravaged by five years of recession marked by shortages of food, medicine and other basic necessities, and the economic woes have been exacerbated by the political crisis.
Delegations representing the Venezuelan rivals met face-to-face in Oslo for the first time in late May, in a process begun two weeks earlier under Norwegian auspices to find a solution to the nation’s multiple crises.
Maduro has repeatedly said that the dialogue will continue with the opposition “for peace in Venezuela.”
Guaido has called Maduro a “usurper” for staying in power after a 2018 election widely dismissed as a sham.
Meanwhile, Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo stressed in a TV interview that a military intervention is not the solution to the Venezuelan crisis, and offered his country’s assistance in reaching a negotiated solution.