Negotiations are set to resume Monday between the Venezuelan government and the opposition group calling for its ouster in a bid to end months of political instability, the two sides announced.
Talks will be held in Barbados and mediated by Norway, which hosted a Oslo meeting in May that failed to reach an agreement between President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Guaido declared himself acting president of Venezuela in January, challenging Maduro’s claim to have won a 2018 election that international observers said lacked legitimacy.
Guaido has called for new, free and fair elections to free Venezuela from Maduro’s “dictatorship.”
“It is clear that in Venezuela there is a dictatorship,” Guaido told CNN Friday. “I think there is no new euphemism that holds. This is to say what happens when there is torture, when there is persecution, when territory is voluntarily given to terrorist organizations in Venezuela.”
Maduro has accused Guaido, his allies and international backers — most notably the United States — of attempting to organize a coup. Dozens of Latin American and Western countries have recognized Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, while Russia, Cuba and China are among the most prominent states supporting Maduro.
Deep divisions in the country were clear on Friday in rival rallies to mark Independence Day.Protesters joined Guaido in one part of the capital of Caracas, while Maduro presided over a colorful military parade in another part of town.
Jorge Rodriguez, the Venezuelan Minister of Communications appointed by Maduro, said in a statement Sunday that government officials will participate in Monday’s negotiations to “look for a constitutional solution for the country.”
Guaido said in a tweet that he was taking part to “establish an end to (Venezuela’s) dictatorship” and “end the suffering of the Venezuelan people.”
Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, have for years been accused of triggering a humanitarian catastrophe through their hardline socialist economic policies. Venezuela has been suffering acute food shortages, soaring unemployment and massive hyperinflation.
The government has also been accused of stomping out dissent through political detentions, torture and extrajudicial killings.
A report from the United Nations Human Rights Office released last week reiterated many of those allegations. It found that men and women detained in Venezuela were subjected to torture or “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” including “electric shocks, suffocation with plastic bags, water boardings, beatings, sexual violence, water and food deprivation, stress positions and exposure to extreme temperatures.”
Maduro’s government strongly denied the allegations levied, calling the UN report “biased” and a “selective and openly partial vision on the real situation.”