FILE - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro holds a small copy of his nation's constitution during ceremony marking the start of the judicial year at the Supreme Court in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 31, 2024. A secret memo obtained by The Associated Press details a covert operation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration that sent undercover operatives into Venezuela to record and build drug-trafficking cases against the country’s leadership including Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)
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CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s government plans to resume negotiations with the U.S. government this week, President Nicolás Maduro announced Monday, less than a month before a highly anticipated presidential election in which he and his party are facing their toughest challenge in decades.

Maduro, who is seeking a third term, wants the U.S. government to lift crippling economic sanctions that were imposed last decade in an effort to topple him. He characterized the dialogue as “urgent” during his weekly TV show.

The Biden administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

“I have received the proposal during two continuous months from the United States government to reestablish talks and direct dialogue,” Maduro said. “After thinking about it for two months, I have accepted, and next Wednesday, talks will restart with the United States government to comply with the agreements signed in Qatar and to reestablish the terms of the urgent dialogue.”

The July 28 election is shaping up to be the biggest challenge the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela has faced in its 25-year dominance that began with the presidency of the fiery Hugo Chávez. The party seeks to control all branches of government for six more years, but its base is divided, diminished and disappointed.

Ten candidates, including Maduro, will be on the ballot. The only contender with a real chance of defeating the president is Edmundo González Urrutia, who represents the opposition’s Unitary Platform coalition.

Last year, Maduro entered into an agreement with the opposition coalition to work toward improving conditions for a free and fair election. But he has since changed course as the meteoric rise of opposition leader Maria Corina Machado turned into a real threat to his reelection prospects.

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The U.S. granted Maduro some relief from sanctions after he entered into the agreement, but pulled it back as his ruling party continued to use its control over all government institutions to tilt the balance, including by blocking Machado’s candidacy.

Machado’s chosen substitute was barred from the ballot, too. She and the coalition are now backing González, a former diplomat.

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