Morning Chronicle - Contact group urges resumed talks by Venezuela parties

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Contact group urges resumed talks by Venezuela parties
Contact group urges resumed talks by Venezuela parties

Contact group urges resumed talks by Venezuela parties

A group of European and Latin American countries on Saturday urged Venezuelan authorities and opposition leaders to resume their dialogue in Mexico aimed at resolving the country's political and economic crises.

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The International Contact Group (ICG), comprising European Union countries and several Latin American nations, issued its call in a statement a day after a "high-level" videoconference dealing with regional elections held in Venezuela on November 21.

Those elections saw the victory of the ruling party but also a return to participation by the opposition following years of electoral boycotts.

The talks began in August 2021 and continued through several rounds before the Venezuelan authorities suspended them in October. That followed the extradition by the African nation of Cape Verde to the United States of a Colombian businessman on money laundering charges.

The businessman, Alex Saab, is considered a confidant of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, though the opposition has described him as a frontman doing shady dealings with Maduro's government.

Venezuelan authorities have demanded Saab's release and the unfreezing of Venezuelan assets held abroad before they resume dialogue with the opposition.

The United States -- which along with some 50 other countries does not recognize Maduro as Venezuela's legitimately elected president -- has said he was putting Saab's fate above the country's future.

The contact group on Friday also reviewed a preliminary report by EU election monitors regarding the November elections.

Team chief Isabel Santos, who is Portuguese, said the group found "better conditions" than in previous elections.

But she cited problems with judicial independence, with the "arbitrary" exclusion of certain candidates, with illegal checkpoints run by Maduro's party near polling sites, and with the transparency of the vote.

Maduro has denounced the European observers as "enemies" and "spies."