United States joins long list of mediators in Venezuela

The US undersecretary of state for political affairs, Thomas Shannon, left, greets Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday in Caracas.

Story highlights

  • Meeting with opposition marks Maduro's first talks with his political foes in over two years
  • US diplomat joins representatives from other countries helping to mediate the talks

(CNN)Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro added a US diplomat to a long list of mediators trying to build rapport between the government and opposition parties, who are in a constitutional tug-of-war for the highest seat in the country.

US diplomat Thomas Shannon was welcomed by Maduro at the Miraflores Palace on Monday evening, according to a Venezuelan government press release.
US State Department spokesman John Kirby said Shannon was traveling "to encourage this dialogue process" in Venezuela. Kirby said Shannon was invited to visit the country after discussions Secretary of State John Kerry "had on the margins of the peace ceremony in Colombia with President Maduro."
    "We are focused on trying to see an effective dialogue between and among Venezuelans across the political spectrum," Kirby said. "We believe that's a necessary step to finding remedies to the political and economic challenges that they're going through."
    Before meeting with Shannon, the Venezuelan government met with the Democratic Unity Board, the political coalition that includes several opposition parties, to try to halt the vitriolic rhetoric expressed by both sides.
    This marked Maduro's first talks with his political opponents in over two years. Venezuela is in the throes of one of its worst recessions in years, leading to protests and calls to impeach Maduro.
    The meeting was facilitated by the Vatican, among other parties.
    "The only alternative is dialogue," Maduro said before the talks began. "We have come prepared to listen and hopefully to be heard and to find topics of agreement for the interests of the majority of the country. I think it isn't the time for long speeches but rather to assume a deep commitment."
    Both sides approached the country's biggest issues by creating subcommittees to tackle Venezuela's economic, electoral and humanitarian affairs.
    The talks were attended by designated mediators, including papal envoy Monsignor Claudio Maria Celli, former Colombian President and Union of South American Nations Secretary General Ernesto Samper, and former heads of state and government from Panama, the Dominican Republic and Spain.
    The talks took place in Caracas and lasted well into Monday morning, hours before Shannon met with Maduro.
    Shannon will stay through Wednesday to meet with senior officials and other leaders, the State Department said.