Venezuela: Gov’t-Opposition Talks Reported as DC Embassy Raided

Maduro decried the embassy raid a “criminal act” and vowed to seek justice at the UN.

By Ricardo Vaz
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Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez (left) and National Assembly Vice President Stalin Gonzalez (right) have reportedly taken part in government-opposition talks in Norway. (Archive)
Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez (left) and National Assembly Vice President Stalin Gonzalez (right) have reportedly taken part in government-opposition talks in Norway. (Archive)

Caracas, May 16, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Representatives from the Venezuelan government and the opposition have reportedly held talks in Norway.

According to Norwegian media reports, negotiations have taken place this week in Oslo. The Maduro government has reportedly been represented by Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez and Miranda State Governor Hector Rodriguez, while the opposition delegation consisted of former lawmaker Gerardo Blyde, former minister Fernando Martinez and National Assembly Second Vice President Stalin Gonzalez.

The Venezuelan government has yet to comment officially on the reports, with President Maduro stating that Jorge Rodriguez was abroad “on an important mission.” Both government representatives tweeted a quote by Ghandi on Thursday stressing their commitment to dialogue.

Anonymous opposition sources also confirmed the alleged talks before self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaido confirmed them on Thursday. However, he added that the opposition would not get involved in a “false negotiation” that does not entail the “end of the usurpation.”

Opposition leader Julio Borges, appointed as Guaido’s representative before the Lima Group, initially denied that any talks were taking place before acknowledging that the reports were true.

Guaido had previously rejected talks with the government, while US officials have also ruled out any dialogue that does not begin with Maduro stepping down. The scope and content of the talks allegedly underway in Oslo remain unknown.

The International Contact Group, made up of European and Latin American countries, also has a delegation currently in Caracas in an attempt to defuse the current political crisis.

The Venezuelan government and opposition most recently held talks in January 2018 in the Dominican Republic. An agreement which included early presidential elections was reportedly reached before the opposition walked away from the negotiating table.

Guaido swore himself in as “interim president” on January 23, and was immediately backed by Washington and other allied countries. The subsequent months have seen different attempts to oust the Maduro government, most recently through a failed military putsch on April 30. The US government also escalated its sanctions against Venezuela, primarily targeting the country’s oil sector.

The reports of dialogue came as tensions surrounding the Venezuelan embassy in Washington DC flared up on Thursday morning. State Department personnel, backed by the US Secret Service, broke into the Venezuelan embassy and arrested the four solidarity activists inside.

Activists had occupied the building for over a month, with the blessing of Venezuelan authorities, to stop Guaido’s representatives from moving in. Local authorities cut off the building’s electricity and water supply, while opposition supporters blocked food supplies, before officials finally moved in.

According to their attorney, Mara Verheyden Hilliard, the activists were charged with “interference with certain protective functions” and not trespassing, leading to speculation that the US government does not want to explain who is in charge of the premises.

Caracas reacted to the raid, with President Maduro calling it a “criminal act” and vowing that the case would be brought before the United Nations. Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza likewise condemned the actions as violations of international law and of the Vienna Convention.

Likewise on Thursday, reports emerged that Ivan Simonovis had broken free from house arrest. Simonovis was handed a 30-year sentence in 2009 for his responsibilities in the deadly violence of Puente Llaguno that triggered the short-lived coup against then President Hugo Chávez in April 2002.

Simonovis was the commissioner of the Caracas Metropolitan Police at the time. He had his jail sentence controversially commuted to house arrest in 2014 on health grounds. At the time of writing there has been no comment from authorities on Simonovis’ alleged escape, and his whereabouts are unknown.

Edited by Lucas Koerner from Caracas.

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