There will be further talks to end to Venezuela's stalemate, negotiators have said. For years, the president's adversaries have been wary of lengthy dialogue, insisting that he has used talks to stall for time.
Mediated by Norway, an initial round of talks between Venezuela's government and opposition groups came to an end on Thursday — with all parties pledging to keep the dialogue going.
"We announce that the representatives of the main political actors in Venezuela are continuing the negotiations that were initiated in Oslo," Norway's Foreign Ministry said.
US sanctions have exacerbated shortages of food, fuel and medicine in Venezuela. On Thursday, the administration of US President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Venezuela's military intelligence agency after navy Captain Rafael Acosta, who died in custody, showed signs of torture. The Trump administration has sanctioned dozens of top Venezuelan officials, including President Nicolas Maduro (pictured), accusing them of stealing from the once-wealthy nation's coffers for personal gain while using the funds to repress critics.
The UN estimates that more than 7 million of Venezuela's 30 million people need aid. Three million people have left the country since the start of 2016. The UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, recently published a report accusing Venezuelan officials of human rights abuses — including extrajudicial killings and measures to erode democratic institutions.
'The Venezuelans' suffering'
Opposition leader Juan Guaido said negotiators wouldn't allow talks to drag. More than 50 countries — including the United States — recognize Guaido as Venezuela's self-declared interim president.
Maduro said the US sought to replace him with Guaido as part of a war aimed at stealing Venezuela's vast oil resources. Guaido has declared Maduro's reelection a fraud and insisted that Venezuela needs to hold a new vote under proper conditions. He has strong supporters in the opposition.
"Our delegation will hold consultations to advance and end the Venezuelans' suffering," Stalin Gonzalez, a legislator and member of the opposition delegation, wrote on Twitter following Norway's statement.
On Thursday, Maduro indicated that he would be willing to continue the consultations, saying, "We can find a path to peace." In an evening television broadcast in the company of Hector Rodriguez, a member of the government's delegation, he said negotiators had decided to continue the dialogue in a "permanent manner."
"After an intense day of work, we developed six points with the government of Norway and the opposition," Maduro said, though he did not specify what the points were.
mkg/sms (EFE, Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)