Venezuela Releases Opposition Leader to Attend Mexico Talks

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Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro released Freddy Guevara, an opposition leader who had been jailed for more than a month, so that he can act as a negotiator in political talks set to start next month.

A top ally of Juan Guaido, Guevara was freed late Sunday from the Caracas headquarters of the police intelligence unit known as Sebin.

In video posted to Twitter by the opposition-led National Assembly, Guevara said that he was unaware of the conditions of his release. He is expected to represent Guaido when delegates from the government and opposition gather in Mexico City in the coming weeks, according to five people with direct knowledge of the decision to release him.

“We must find a solution to this crisis and I am absolutely ready,” Guevara said after his release. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help Venezuela.”

In Mexico, Guevara may replace Carlos Vecchio, Guaido’s ambassador in the U.S. Maduro’s negotiators had objected to Vecchio’s presence when the two sides met on Friday to sign a memorandum of understanding to set up the negotiations. They demanded he resign his post as ambassador if he continued as a negotiator, a condition the opposition ultimately refused.

The release of Guevara is seen as a concession by Maduro as the talks are set to get underway. The next meetings in the wide-ranging discussions aimed at ending a five-year political stalemate will take place from Sept. 3 to 6, according to a statement from the Norway Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is facilitating the negotiations.

Guevara, 35, a former vice president of the National Assembly, was arrested in July. The government accused him of working with criminal gangs to organize a deadly three-day standoff with security forces at a slum in western Caracas. The Public Prosecutor’s office accused him of being associated with “extremist and paramilitary” groups.

Guevara’s attorneys, who denied the accusations, said this month that neither they nor his family were able to visit him in prison, and expressed concern for his health. On videos shared by local media Sunday, Guevara spoke outside Sebin headquarters briefly to reporters.

“I was incommunicado,” he said of his time in detention. “I have zero political information. I have not been able to speak to anyone.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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