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Venezuela government, opposition hold talks in Barbados as Maduro slams sanctions

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By Lefteris Karagiannopoulos and Luc Cohen

OSLO/CARACAS (Reuters) – The government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the opposition are continuing to hold talks in Barbados in an effort to find ways to resolve the Latin American country’s political crisis, the Foreign Ministry of mediator Norway said on Friday.

Friday’s statement, the first in three weeks, came a day after U.S. President Donald Trump said he was considering a quarantine or blockade of Venezuela and ahead of a summit in Peru on the Venezuelan crisis, which U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will attend.

“Τhe representatives of the main political actors in Venezuela are continuing the negotiations … Τhe parties have reiterated their willingness to advance in the search for an agreed upon and constitutional solution,” Norway’s Foreign Ministry said.

Maduro, who after saying the dialogue was progressing and that he would “meet even with the devil,” alleged that the United States is timing new sanctions on Venezuelan officials to coincide with the new rounds of talks.

The Trump administration on Friday slapped sanctions on two security officials for alleged human rights violations.

“Every time there has been a dialogue session, the U.S. government makes bad, perverse decisions like it took this week,” Maduro said in a Friday evening state television broadcast. “Illegal, spurious decisions. Stupid decisions about supposed sanctions.”

The opposition’s main negotiator, Stalin Gonzalez, thanked the government of Norway in a tweet shortly after the ministry’s statement, ratifying his party’s proposal for a constitutional solution.

Juan Guaido, leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, invoked the constitution in January to assume a rival interim presidency after declaring Maduro’s 2018 re-election a fraud. Maduro calls Guaido a puppet of the United States and blames Venezuela’s severe economic problems on U.S. sanctions meant to force him from office.

(Reporting by Lefteris Karagiannopoulos; additional reporting by Sarah Kinosian; editing by Leslie Adler and G Crosse)

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