Venezuela opposition leader Guaido in "informal" meetings with Colombia's govt

FILE PHOTO: Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido addresses the media in Caracas, Venezuela June 14, 2022. REUTERS/Leonardo Fernandez Viloria

CARACAS - Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has held "informal meetings" with members of newly elected Colombian President Gustavo Petro's government, he said on Friday.

In a quest to normalize bilateral relations, Petro and his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro each appointed an ambassador to the other's country this week.

Caracas broke relations with Bogota in 2019 after Venezuelan opposition activists tried to enter the country from Colombia with trucks of food and medicinal aid. Maduro's government said it was a masked attempted coup supported by Washington.

"So far we have not had (anything) beyond informal meetings," Guaido said at a press conference, adding that "formal mechanisms" would be sought to open up Colombian exports to Venezuela.

Guaido confirmed the opposition was ready to return to negotiations with Venezuela's government, a process started in Mexico in August 2021 but suspended by ruling-party delegates in October.

For talks to resume, Venezuela's government has demanded resolution of issues ranging from the release of a U.S.-imprisoned businessman to the return of a Venezuelan cargo plane held in Argentina.

Guaido's lawyers have held "routine" talks with Venezuelan bondholders as part of the strategy for the protection of assets abroad, he said, without giving further details.

Guaido's legal team filed a U.S. lawsuit in 2019 to nullify a bond from state-owned PDVSA, seeking to safeguard Citgo, a U.S. subsidiary of the Venezuelan oil company, and which was collateral for those papers.

Maduro's government has stated several times that it has had meetings with bondholders. This year, advisors from the finance ministry spoke with bondholders offering them investment opportunities in oil, mining and tourism.

Funds from the termination of a $120 million gold swap contract will remain frozen in London and their use "could only be considered for humanitarian response plans," Guaido added.

In July, the UK Supreme Court rejected the Maduro government's efforts to control Venezuela's more than $1 billion in gold reserves held at the Bank of England.

(Reporting by Vivian Sequera, Mayela Armas and Mircely Guanipa; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by Richard Chang)

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