Venezuelan, Opposition Envoys Head to Norway for Talks


The Venezuelan government and opposition have sent envoys to Norway to attend talks on ways of ending the South American country’s crisis, though their mutual mistrust and differences on key issues are likely to slow chances of progress.

The development reported by officials Wednesday appeared to reflect a recognition that neither side had been able to prevail in the struggle for power, leaving Venezuela in a state of paralysis after years of hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine.

It was also a policy reversal for the opposition, which has accused President Nicolas Maduro of using previous negotiations to play for time.

In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, right, accompanied by his Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, waves upon his arrival to Fort Tiuna, in Caracas, Venezuela, May 2, 2019.

Exploratory talks

Senior members of both sides will be involved in the exploratory discussions in Oslo, said members of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled congress who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks. Delegations from the two opposing camps had received separate invitations from a group of Norwegians, one official said.

The representatives include Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez on the government side and Stalin Gonzalez, a leading member of the National Assembly, the officials said.

Maduro did not directly comment on the talks during televised remarks, but he said Rodriguez was on a “very important” mission outside Venezuela.

The planned talks seemed likely to dampen speculation that the United States, the main backer of the Venezuelan opposition, might be considering military action as a way to end the crisis in the near term. U.S. officials have previously said they are focusing on diplomatic and economic measures to force out Maduro, though opposition leader Juan Guaido said his Washington envoy will meet with the head of the U.S. Southern Command on Monday.

The two sides are currently far apart on many issues. The opposition has insisted that Maduro was illegitimately elected last year and that he must step aside to make way for elections. Maduro, in turn, accuses the opposition of being U.S. stooges intent on illegally seizing power.

Europe steps in

The Norway dialogue comes as a mostly European group of nations prepares to send a high-level delegation to Venezuela to propose solutions to the country’s protracted crisis. The International Contact Group consists of eight European countries, the European Union and four Latin American countries.

The group formed after Guaido, the head of the National Assembly, declared himself Venezuela’s interim president early this year in a direct challenge to the rule of Maduro, who says his government champions the socialist principles of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

The opposition, which is backed by the United States and about 50 other nations, says Venezuela’s dire economic state is the result of years of corruption and mismanagement. Maduro blames the country’s problems on U.S. sanctions that were imposed more recently.

Also Wednesday, the United States suspended all commercial passenger and cargo flights between the U.S. and Venezuela, saying the political unrest and tensions there pose a risk to flights.

The announcement by the Department of Homeland Security affected a dwindling number of flights between the two countries, since U.S. airlines no longer fly to Venezuela. The measure reflected the increasingly sour relationship between the Venezuelan government and the U.S.



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