Venezuela government seeks deal with opposition to unblock funds
FILE - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gestures at supoorters during a demonstration in Caracas on April 19, 2016. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's six-year term reaches midpoint on Tuesday, a date few have been anticipating more eagerly than the country's opposition, which will now be able to initiate a recall referendum. / AFP PHOTO / JUAN BARRETO

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AFP) -- Representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government voiced hopes Friday of signing an agreement with the opposition during talks in Mexico to unblock funds to ease the country's economic woes.

The two sides are due to resume talks on Saturday after a year-long break, seeking to resolve a political crisis that has gripped the nation since a contested 2018 election.

Government negotiator Jorge Rodriguez told reporters after arriving in Mexico City that one of his objectives was to ink a "broad social agreement" with the opposition.

The government side said earlier that the pact was expected to establish a mechanism to restore access to funds frozen in the international financial system.

The money would be used to improve public healthcare and the electricity network, according to a statement released by Rodriguez, who did not specify the amount or where the funds were blocked.

The two sides held several rounds of negotiations mediated by Norway in Mexico last year, and international efforts have mounted in recent months to get the talks back on track.

The opposition is seeking free and fair presidential elections, next due in 2024, while Caracas wants the international community to recognize Maduro as the rightful president and lift sanctions.

International efforts to resolve the Venezuelan crisis have gained strength since Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the pressure it has placed on global energy supplies.

US President Joe Biden's administration announced in May it would ease some sanctions as energy prices surged due to the war.

Maduro declared himself the victor of the 2018 election, which was widely seen as fraudulent, prompting massive protests.

Almost 60 countries, including the United States, recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as acting president.

Guaido's influence has since ebbed, and he has lost key allies both at home and in the region, where many countries have since elected leftist presidents.

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