Venezuela opposition: Norway-mediated talks with Maduro are over

Opposition leader Juan Guaido calls effort 'finished', more than a month after Nicolas Maduro broke off the dialogue.

    Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido speaks to the media [File: Manaure Quintero/Reuters]
    Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido speaks to the media [File: Manaure Quintero/Reuters]

    Venezuela's opposition said on Sunday a dialogue mediated by Norway to try to resolve a political crisis had ended, six weeks after President Nicolas Maduro's government suspended participation.

    The talks, most of which took place in Barbados, began after opposition leader Juan Guaido led a failed military uprising in April against Maduro, who is accused of rights violations and has overseen an economic collapse prompting millions to flee.

    Maduro's representatives walked away from the table in August to protest US President Donald Trump's tightening of sanctions on the OPEC nation. Critics of the dialogue within Venezuela's opposition coalition argued Maduro was negotiating in bad faith and using the talks to buy time.

    "The dictatorial regime of Nicolas Maduro abandoned the negotiation process with false excuses," Guaido's office said in a statement. "After more than 40 days in which they have refused to continue, we confirm that the Barbados mechanism is finished."

    Venezuela's Information Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

    Despite the setback, Norwegian diplomats are still prepared to assist, said Dag Nylander, who heads international peace and reconciliation efforts at Norway's Foreign Ministry. 

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    "Norway is facilitating the negotiation process in Venezuela at the request of the principal political actors in the country, and reiterates its readiness to continue in this role as long as the parties consider it useful, and advance in the search of a negotiated solution," Nylander tweeted on Monday.

    Guaido, who heads the opposition-controlled National Assembly, invoked Venezuela's constitution in January to assume an interim presidency, arguing Maduro's 2018 re-election was illegitimate. He has been recognised as Venezuela's rightful leader by dozens of countries, including the United States.

    But Maduro, who calls Guaido a coup-mongering US puppet, has held on to power despite a deepening economic slowdown and growing international isolation. The military has not abandoned him despite repeated calls by the opposition to do so, and he retains the support of Russia and China.

    Opposition negotiators had said Maduro's representatives were unwilling to discuss the opposition's main priority - a new election under free and fair conditions.

    In its Sunday statement, which it called a message to "the people and the armed forces," Guaido's office thanked Norway for facilitating the process but did not specify next steps. 

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    "We must prepare to begin a new phase of this struggle that will require greater commitment, strength, determination, sacrifice and conviction from everyone," the statement said.

    Opposition assembly

    Meanwhile, Venezuela's government said on Monday it was evaluating sending some of its politicians back to the opposition-controlled National Assembly, which Maduro has called an illegal institution, as part of new talks with one opposition faction.

    Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez also said the government would reform the national electoral commission, which the opposition and Western observers have denounced as biased as it oversaw a 2018 election they claim was rigged and that Maduro won. Rodriguez gave no details about these possible changes.

    The agreement was made with a different sector of the opposition than that led by Guaido. 

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    "We have not closed any door to any initiative to resolve among Venezuelans the issues that concern us," Rodriguez said. "We have reached agreement on some issues and have a working agenda on others."

    As part of the agreement, the government said politicians would return to the National Assembly for the first time since 2017, when Maduro declared the body illegitimate and created a parallel legislature called the National Constituent Assembly to override opposition delegates' decisions.

    However, a draft proposal document, seen by Reuters, did not propose eliminating the Constituent Assembly, but rather for there to be a "balance of both powers".

    SOURCE: News agencies