Venezuelan government and opposition reportedly headed to Norway for talks
|National Post 16 May 2019 at 06:40|
BERLIN – After months of protest and a failed opposition attempt to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, government and opposition representatives headed to Norway for talks on Wednesday, multiple media outlets reported.
It was unclear whether representatives of both sides would meet directly, or whether Norwegian officials would serve as intermediaries to explore possible resolutions for the crisis in Venezuela.
Venezuela’s opposition claims that Maduro’s election last year was illegitimate and has called on him to step aside.
While not mentioning any negotiations specifically, Maduro acknowledged in televised remarks Tuesday night that Information Minister Jorge Rodríguez has embarked on a “very important” trip abroad.
A spokesman for Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it would not comment on or confirm any talks.
The reported talks come amid escalating tensions following opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s failed attempt to overthrow the government in a military uprising about two weeks ago. Several people involved in that uprising subsequently fled to foreign embassies.
Venezuelan intelligence police later detained the vice president of the National Assembly in eastern Caracas. He was the first senior opposition official to be taken into custody following Guaidó’s April 30 call for the military to help oust Maduro.
Several opposition lawmakers were also charged with rebellion, treason and conspiracy.
The moves last week appeared to signal a possible crackdown by Maduro’s socialist government, but talks in Norway may indicate that neither side currently believes it is capable of winning.
One reason for that could be the stance of the United States, which has repeatedly suggested that opposition leader Guaidó’s arrest would be a red line for the Trump administration.
The Trump administration has pursued a confrontational approach and has pondered the use of military force as an option.
But President Donald Trump himself appears to have grown more wary of whether an intervention in Venezuela would be the right strategy, as the Venezuelan socialist government does not pose a direct threat to the United States and is being backed by Russia.
Earlier this month, Trump summarized a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin is “not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela, other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela,” Trump said. “And I feel the same way. We want to get some humanitarian aid.”
With Washington reluctant to risk direct involvement, Venezuela’s opposition has recently begun to discuss alternatives to a government overthrow, including the possibility of forming a joint administration with Maduro officials. Behind the scenes, foreign backers of the opposition have worked to arrange talks between the two sides to defuse tensions.
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