By Laura Gamba
BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) - A US delegation has arrived in Venezuela to repair strained relations with the South American country, President Nicolas Maduro said Monday.
“(National Assembly President) Jorge Rodríguez is receiving an important delegation of the government of the United States that arrived in Venezuela two hours ago," said Maduro on television.
The delegation is “working to give continuity to the communications that began on March 5 and to give continuity to the bilateral agenda between the government of the United States and the government of Venezuela,” he added.
A US delegation led by President Joe Biden’s top Latin American adviser Juan Gonzalez had already traveled to Caracas on March 5 to talk about American citizens being held in Venezuela. Following that step towards repairing relations, two US citizens were released by the Venezuelan government. One of them was among six executives of US refiner Citgo who were found guilty of corruption charges and sentenced to between eight and 13 years in prison.
“Part of our focus is on the health and welfare of detained US citizens," said White House press secretary Jen Psaki in March.
After the March talks and in response to Maduro's "willingness" to release two detained Americans, the US lifted some sanctions and renewed a license for oil companies, including Chevron, to continue operating in Venezuela.
The talks were held in line with a fuel price crisis faced by Biden in the US as the war in Ukraine grinds on, which has forced him to move closer to Venezuela, the region's other oil giant.
The US and Venezuela broke off relations in 2019 after Maduro assumed a second term in elections considered a “sham” by the US, the country's opposition and other countries around the world.
Washington then recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president and imposed sanctions on people close to Maduro.