Venezuela leadership negotiations to resume this week

WASHINGTON (AP) — A diplomat who represents Venezuela’s opposition leader in Washington said Tuesday that talks to end the political impasse with the government of President Nicolás Maduro will resume this week.

Carlos Vecchio, who represents opposition leader Juan Guaidó, would not specify exactly when or where the talks would occur, but he said he expects a resolution to the standoff by the end of the year.

The two sides held talks for several days earlier this month in Barbados. The opposition says Maduro’s re-election last year was invalid and is pushing for early presidential elections. Maduro has resisted calls to step down and has accused his opponents of stirring up violence in the once prosperous South American country.

Venezuela has been ravaged by hyperinflation and food shortages, causing about 4 million Venezuelans to flee the country in recent years, mostly to neighboring countries unprepared to deal with the influx of migrants.

“The only way to resolve the Venezuelan crisis is taking out Maduro,” Vecchio said during a speech at the National Press Club.

Vecchio said Guaidó’s government is in a better position to depose Maduro now that it was six months ago. The opposition is in contact with members of Maduro’s inner circle who say the president is weaker than ever, he said.

“Maduro has no future,” Vecchio said. “He’s not governing Venezuela anymore.”

Vecchio said the international community must back Guaidó’s plan to remove the president from office.

The Trump administration was among the first of about 50 nations to recognize Guaido as interim president and has called for Maduro to step down.

Vecchio, who is recognized as ambassador by the administration, spoke as a bill aimed at providing temporary residency to thousands of Venezuelans living in the U.S. stalled in the Senate despite unanimous consent from the Democratic minority.

Asked if Guaido’s government would welcome international military intervention in Venezuela, Vecchio said Guaidó preferred a peaceful resolution.

“The only obstacle for peace in our country is Nicolas Maduro,” Vecchio said.