Venezuelan opposition urges government to resume suspended talks

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The chair of the Venezuelan opposition negotiating team on Sunday urged the government to resume talks as soon as possible, after President Nicolas Maduro's administration suspended talks this weekend.

Maduro's government suspended the conversations after its envoy Alex Saab was extradited to the United States from Cape Verde on Saturday on money laundering charges.

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“We urge our counterpart to restart as soon as possible the session in Mexico to produce the necessary agreements,” said Gerardo Blyde, speaking from Mexico City.

The two sides are seeking a solution to Venezuela's extended social and economic crisis, which has plunged a majority of its population into poverty and sent millions abroad looking for opportunities.

Socialist party legislator Jorge Rodriguez, who heads the government's negotiating team, said late on Saturday the Venezuelan government would not attend the talks, which were set to resume on Sunday.

The Venezuelan government in September named Saab - who was arrested in June 2020 when his plane stopped in Cape Verde to refuel - as a member of its negotiating team.

The US Justice Department charged Saab in 2019 in connection with a bribery scheme to take advantage of Venezuela's state-controlled exchange rate. The US also sanctioned him for allegedly orchestrating a corruption network that allowed Saab and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to profit from a state-run food subsidy program.

Saab is expected to make his initial court appearance on Monday in US District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The Venezuelan government said the suspension was a protest against what it called “brutal aggression” against Saab. Hours after Saab's extradition, Venezuela revoked the house arrest of six former executives of refiner Citgo, a US subsidiary of state oil company PDVSA.

The former Citgo executives, who were arrested in November 2017 after being summoned to a meeting at PDVSA headquarters in Caracas, were taken from their homes to one of the headquarters of the intelligence police.

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