CARACAS: A US delegation arrived in Venezuela Monday to discuss a “bilateral agenda,” extending discussions between Caracas and Washington initiated in March, said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
National Assembly speaker, Jorge Rodriguez, “is receiving a delegation from the government of the United States, an important delegation that arrived two hours ago in Venezuela,” Maduro announced on national public television VTV at around 8:00 pm (0000 GMT).
Rodriguez is also the Venezuelan government’s negotiator in talks with the opposition, which have been at a standstill since last October.
Washington had sent a high-level delegation to Caracas in early March, a few days after Russia invaded Ukraine. Several observers said the move was aimed at trying to distance Caracas from one of its main allies, Moscow, and discussing an easing of US sanctions on Venezuelan oil after the invasion caused a spike in global fuel prices.
The White House confirmed the meeting but only said the discussions had focused in particular on American “energy security.” Before its rupture with Washington, Venezuela exported almost all of its oil production to the United States.
After those discussions, Caracas released two Americans detained in Venezuela in what was widely seen as a goodwill gesture.
In May, Washington announced it would ease some limited sanctions against Venezuela, including one linked to the oil company Chevron, to promote dialogue between Maduro’s government and the opposition.
The two counties severed diplomatic ties in 2019 after Maduro was re-elected in 2018 to a second term in a ballot boycotted by the opposition.
In a bid to oust Maduro from power, Washington recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president, imposing a battery of sanctions on Caracas.
Those measures included an embargo that prevents Venezuela from trading its crude oil — which represented 96 percent of the country’s income at the time — on the US market.
Since then, Maduro has received significant support from Russia to be able to continue exporting oil despite the sanctions.