Lima Group extols U.S plan to lift Venezuela sanctions in exchange for power-sharing deal

LIMA, April 2 (Reuters) - The Lima Group regional bloc said on Thursday it “appreciated” a new U.S. plan to begin lifting sanctions on Venezuela if the opposition and members of President Nicolas Maduro’s party form an interim government without him.

The deal is the first to lay out a “sequenced exit path” from tough U.S. sanctions, including on the vital oil sector, if Maduro and his allies agree to cooperate and hold free elections.

The Lima Group said in a statement the plan was in line with its vision, promising a “return to democracy in Venezuela,” and the prospect of “celebrating free, fair and transparent presidential and parliamentary elections.”

The bloc reiterated “its conviction that Venezuelans themselves should lead the return to democracy.”

The group said it would continue to support a proposal by opposition leader Juan Guaido to form an emergency government of members across the political spectrum to confront the impending coronavirus crisis.

Under the U.S. proposal, both Maduro and Guaido, however, would step aside and neither would be part of the transitional government.

The Lima Group includes Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Bolivia, Mexico, Haiti, Argentina and St Lucia.

Reporting by Marco Aquino and Dave Sherwood; Writing by Dave Sherwood Editing by Leslie Adler