Venezuela crisis: Delegates to meet for Norway peace talks

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A composite picture shows Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó (L) smiling during a gathering of supporters in Caracas in February, 2019, and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro delivering a speech during the ceremony of recognition by the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) in Caracas in January 2019Image copyright AFP
Image caption Previous attempts at mediation between the two Venezuelan sides have failed

Representatives of Venezuela’s government and opposition are returning to Norway’s capital, Oslo, for talks on how to address the political crisis.

The meeting, scheduled for next week, was confirmed by Norway’s government, which reiterated its commitment to helping to find a solution.

Discussions were held there earlier this month, but the opposition says there were no face-to-face meetings.

Venezuela has been in political crisis for months amid a power struggle.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president in January, arguing that the presidency was vacant because Nicolás Maduro’s re-election last year was “illegitimate”.

But Mr Maduro has refused to cede power.

What do we know about the talks?

Norway’s foreign ministry released a statement saying the “main political actors in Venezuela” would take part in the discussions, as it reiterated its commitment to “supporting the search for an agreed-upon solution” to the crisis.

Preliminary discussions, with each side talking separately with Norwegian officials, were held earlier this month.

Mr Guaidó confirmed in a statement that his representatives “will talk with both the Norwegian government and with representatives of the regime” in the upcoming discussions.

The opposition delegation will be headed by deputy parliament speaker Stalin Gonzalez and former Caracas area Mayor Gerardo Blyde, both of whom were involved in the initial talks, he said.

Venezuelan Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez and the governor of Miranda province, Hector Rodriguez, are expected to lead the government delegation, after attending the previous round.

Mr Maduro thanked Norway on Twitter for its mediation efforts.

He said (in Spanish) his delegation was “ready to work on a comprehensive agenda and move towards the signing of agreements.”

Previous attempts at mediation between the two Venezuelan sides have failed. However, Norway has in the past successfully mediated in the Colombian armed conflict.

Do protesters support the talks?

The ruling Socialist Party has publicly endorsed the talks, while Mr Guaidó has appeared more cautious.

Many opposition supporters who have spent months trying to push Mr Maduro from power are against the discussions.

They argue that the president has previously used dialogue as a stalling tactic to remain in power while living standards have declined.

Without directly referencing the Norway talks, Mr Guaidó told supporters on Saturday that the opposition would not repeat past errors.

“They will never fool us again with a false dialogue like [in] 2017,” he said. “That’s why today we’re in the streets.”

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Many opposition supporters are wary of the talks

How did we get here?

Political tensions in Venezuela escalated after Mr Maduro was sworn in for a second term on 9 January. The elections were widely dismissed as “neither free nor fair”.

On 23 January, Mr Guaidó, the president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, invoked the constitution to declare himself interim president, arguing that Mr Maduro’s election had been fraudulent.

Dozens of countries, including the US and many European Union members, have recognised him as the legitimate leader of Venezuela.

But Mr Maduro – who is backed by countries including Russia and China, as well as the leaders of Venezuela’s powerful military – has refused to step down.

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