A senior U.S. diplomat was scheduled to meet Tuesday with Venezuelan officials to jumpstart dialogue between the normally hostile governments as the socialist-run nation is torn apart by daily food protests and a campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

Thomas Shannon, a career diplomat with extensive experience in Latin America, flew to Caracas after weeks of looting and hunger riots in Venezuela. The riots led to hundreds of arrests and several deaths.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said Shannon, who now serves as undersecretary of state for political affairs, hoped to foster dialogue about the social, economic and political challenges facing the oil-rich country. He was to meet with leading opposition figures and was also expected to meet with Maduro and other government representatives.

The visit comes as the Organization of American States is set to meet later in the week in Washington to debate the mounting crisis and weigh sanctioning Maduro for allegedly stamping out political dissent in violation of regional commitments to democracy.

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