Venezuela Says Lawmakers Will Return to Opposition-Led Legislature

In this Jan. 24, 2019 file photo, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, right, speaks with Constitutional Assembly President Diosdado Cabello at the Supreme Court during an annual ceremony that marks the start of the judicial year in Caracas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)

(AFP) – Venezuela’s government said Monday its deputies will return to the opposition-controlled legislature, which they walked out of three years ago.

“In the interests of deepening and extending the dialogue… the United Socialist Part of Venezuela (PSUV) and its allied factions will return to the National Assembly,” said communications minister Jorge Rodriguez, hours after opposition leader Juan Guaido announced that reconciliation talks had broken down.

Deputies from the ruling socialist party walked out of the National Assembly in 2016 after losing control in elections, and the government set up its own body, the Constituent Assembly, to sideline the opposition-dominated body.

Guaido, the speaker of the National Assembly, earlier this year declared himself interim president with the backing of the United States and other western powers, saying elections that returned socialist leader Nicolas Maduro to power had been undermined by fraud.

The National Assembly has maintained its composition of 112 opposition lawmakers and 55 government loyalists, although a number of the opposition members have either been jailed, gone undercover to avoid arrest or fled the country.

On Sunday, Guaido said that talks aimed at resolving the country’s political crisis had ended, more than a month after Maduro broke off the Norwegian-mediated dialogue.

Maduro called off the talks, which were initially held in Oslo and then moved to Barbados, on August 7 in response to US sanctions against his government.

“Maduro has abandoned the negotiation process with misleading excuses,” Guaido said in a statement Sunday evening. “After more than 40 days during which he refused to continue, we can confirm that the Barbados (dialogue) mechanism has ended.”

Guaido has demanded that Maduro step down to clear the way for elections but Maduro has refused to budge, insisting sanctions be lifted and blaming the country’s spiral into economic and political chaos on a US-directed conspiracy.

Alluding to Maduro, Guaido said: “Those who usurp power have prevented a peaceful exit, refusing to discuss and accept a sensible proposal made by our delegation to put an end to this conflict.”

Guaido’s team said it is in favor of “any solution” that “would end the suffering of Venezuelans.”

Guaido has the political backing of the United States and more than 50 countries, but Maduro has so far weathered a failed military rebellion, street protests and a severe economic recession that has driven millions of Venezuelans to leave the country.

Maduro, who succeeded the late leftist firebrand Hugo Chavez, was elected in 2013 and re-elected last year in a vote that was widely denounced as rigged.

© Agence France-Presse

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