Venezuelan political talks set to enter challenging phase -opposition delegate

CARACAS (Reuters) - Talks between the Venezuelan government and the country's opposition, which resumed over the weekend, are set to enter a crucial stage, the head of dialogue for Venezuela's opposition said on Monday, as the political rivals seek to end a prolonged economic crisis.

"Now is when negotiations get tough," Gerardo Blyde, who leads the team of negotiators for Venezuela's opposition, said in an interview with local radio station Circuitos Exitos.

The talks are ongoing but do not have a fixed schedule as yet. The discussions are held in Mexico City and are mediated by Norway.

The opposition will seek to meet with the Venezuelan government again before the end of the year to discuss human rights, political prisoners and other topics including "electoral conditions," Blyde said.

Delegates for President Nicolas Maduro and the opposition met in Mexico City Saturday to resume formal talks after a hiatus of more than a year.

The parties signed a "social agreement," asking the United Nations to manage the Venezuelan money currently frozen in international accounts in a fund to be used for aid purposes, reportedly totaling some $3 billion.

The agreement "is not the solution," however, said Blyde, describing it as a "palliative" step.

The $3 billion is not enough to meet Venezuela's needs, he said, adding that once the fund is created, the plan is to dole out the cash in phases, taking around three years.

A date has not been set to create the fund, which will be used to make improvements to the electric grid, hospitals and schools in the nation where around half live in poverty.

Blyde also said the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden had been key in getting the Venezuelan government back to the table by easing some Washington-imposed sanctions.

U.S. oil company Chevron Corp also received an expanded license on Saturday, allowing it to resume oil production in the South American country and bring Venezuelan crude to the United States.

The decision gives broader freedom to Chevron, the last large U.S. oil producer operating in Venezuela, though it restricts the company from paying royalties in the country.

(Reporting by Vivian Sequera and Mayela Armas in Caracas; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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