Venezuela’s government late on Wednesday halted negotiations with the opposition in protest of the Trump administration’s freezing of its US assets.
The move has thrust into crisis the country’s best chance of peacefully resolving a political standoff that has kept it on edge for more than six months.
The decision surprised representatives of opposition leader Juan Guaido, who were already on the Caribbean island of Barbados awaiting what was to be the start on Thursday of the sixth round of talks that began in May under the auspices of Norway.
The government said: “We Venezuelans have watched with profound indignation how the chief of the opposition, Juan Guaido, celebrates, promotes and supports these harmful actions against our nation’s sovereignty and our peoples’ most basic human rights.”
The government stopped short of abandoning the talks altogether, saying only that it would “review the mechanisms of this process to ensure its continuation is truly effective and harmonious with the interests of the people”.
For weeks, representatives of President Nicolas Maduro and his would-be successor have been shuttling back and forth to Barbados trying to agree on a common path out of the country’s prolonged political standoff.
The meetings have been slow-going and shrouded in mystery, with neither side disclosing details.
But Mr Maduro’s supporters have accused the US of trying to blow up the fragile process with sweeping new sanctions announced this week that freeze all of the government’s assets in the US and even threaten to punish companies from third countries that keep doing business with his socialist administration.