Maduro negotiator says Venezuela government, opposition making progress on $3.2 billion humanitarian fund

FILE PHOTO: Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro delivers a speech in front of the Venezuelan Supreme Court of Justice magistrates during the opening of the new court term, in Caracas, Venezuela January 31, 2023. REUTERS/Leonardo Fernandez Viloria

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's governing and opposition parties are making progress toward the creation of a $3.2 billion U.N.-administrated fund that would aim to use the country's frozen assets for humanitarian purposes, the top lawmaker from the country's ruling party said on Monday.

During Mexico-based talks in November, representatives for the government of President Nicholas Maduro and the U.S.-backed opposition party agreed to create the fund to support healthcare, food and education efforts needed to overcome Venezuela's long-running social and political crisis."If (the fund) happens, and I think we are advancing on some steps in that direction, we can pass to another stage of the conversations," the government's lead negotiator and National Assembly President Jorge Rodriguez told television station Globovision.

The talks, which cover a range of issues, first began in August 2021 before a 15-month hiatus. They resumed briefly in November 2022 after Washington eased some sanctions on the Maduro government. The opposition hopes the negotiations will help guarantee that elections tentatively scheduled for 2024 are held in fair conditions.

Rodriguez did not offer details on what progress had been made toward creation of the humanitarian fund.

The United Nations office in Caracas did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment, nor did the head of the opposition's legislature, Dinorah Figuera, who lives in exile in Spain.

Rodriguez has previously said there is no reason to return to the talks unless the funds are made available. The opposition's head negotiator, Gerardo Blyde, has said money from the frozen assets is spread across different jurisdictions, each with their own legal requirements.

The opposition has said the money could be moved in small tranches to protect it from creditors.

(Reporting by Vivian Sequera; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Caitlin Webber)

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