Venezuela's Maduro says Citgo is key point in opposition dialogue

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said the opposition's continued control of Venezuelan-owned U.S. refiner Citgo would be a key point in any eventual dialogue with opponents to resolve the country's longstanding political crisis.

Maduro earlier this week said he was willing to sit down with opposition leader Juan Guaido with the involvement of the Norwegian government or other mediators, after Guaido floated the idea of the progressive relaxation of U.S. sanctions to incentivize the government to hold free and fair elections.

In a state television address, Maduro said the first point of discussion in any dialogue would be for the opposition to "renounce the path of coups, interventionism and to call for invasions of our country."

"The second point is that they disclose all the resources they gave to the U.S. government to conspire, and return all the bank accounts and return Citgo and Monomeros to the hands of the Venezuelan state," Maduro said. Monomeros is a Venezuelan-owned petrochemical company in Colombia also under opposition control.

Citgo passed to opposition control in 2019 after the United States recognized Guaido, the speaker of the opposition-held National Assembly, as Venezuela's rightful leader and sanctioned state oil company PDVSA, Citgo's parent, as part of its bid to oust Maduro.

Citgo, the eighth-largest U.S. refiner, is Venezuela's crown jewel overseas asset. Its three refineries have a capacity of 750,000 barrels per day (bpd).

A spokesman for Guaido declined to comment. The opposition and Washington call Maduro, who has overseen an economic crisis, a dictator who rigged his 2018 re-election.

Guaido called on the government to convoke presidential and parliamentary elections with international observation, after his coalition boycotted recent votes in 2018 and 2020. Venezuela has gubernatorial and mayoral elections scheduled for Nov. 21.

"If they want elections, there are elections on Nov. 21," Maduro said on Friday. "They should sign their candidates up and we will go head to head for votes like we did in earlier years."

(Reporting by Deisy Buitrago and Luc Cohen; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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