Venezuela: Norway Talks End as Pence Telephones Guaido

Maduro praised “constructive dialogue” while the opposition reiterated appeals to the armed forces.

By Lucas Koerner
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Guaido met with US Vice President Mike Pence in Bogota on February 25. (EFE)
Guaido met with US Vice President Mike Pence in Bogota on February 25. (EFE)

Caracas, 30 May 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The second round of dialogue between the Maduro government and the opposition concluded in Oslo on Wednesday.

The Norwegian government issued a statement praising the “willingness” of both parties to “move forward in the search for an agreed-upon and constitutional solution for the country, which includes political, economic and electoral matters.”

Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide did not comment on the progress of the talks and urged the participants to “show utmost caution” in public statements on the process.

Speaking on Wednesday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro applauded the dialogue, which he hoped would lead to a “peace agreement.”

“I am proud that we are in a phase of constructive dialogue with the Venezuelan opposition,” the head of state emphasized, claiming that the current negotiations are the fruit of “two or three months” of secret discussions and that dialogue with the opposition would continue.

Maduro has in recent days proposed bringing forward elections for the National Assembly, originally scheduled for 2020, as a path to resolving the country’s political standoff. The opposition-held legislature has been in contempt of court since 2016 due to a dispute with the judicial branch.

The Venezuelan opposition, for its part, struck a sharply discordant chord, affirming that the “face to face” talks had “ended without an agreement.”

In a public statement, the office of self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaido stressed that any agreement must include the ouster of Maduro, the formation of a “transition government,” and the convening of new presidential elections, which has been rejected by the Venezuelan government as a non-starter.

The opposition also reiterated its calls to the Venezuelan armed forces to remove Maduro from office. On April 30, Guaido led a failed military putsch that saw opposition supporters accompanied by a small group of soldiers attempt to take over the Carlota air base in Caracas and march on Miraflores Presidential Palace. More recently, the opposition-led National Assembly approved a bill this Tuesday supporting Venezuela’s reentry into the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR), a mutual defense pact involving sixteen countries in the hemisphere which has been cited as a possible legal justification for US military intervention.

Speaking to Fox News on Wednesday afternoon, Guaido vowed his supporters would “remain in the streets” until Maduro is ousted. The parliamentary president has, however, come under fire from other opposition figures for participating in the negotiations, with hardline Vente Venezuela party leader Maria Corina Machado penning a public letter to Colombian President Ivan Duque warning that the talks could see the opposition “lose its political momentum.”

The opposition statement was followed by a phone call placed by US Vice President Mike Pence to Guaido on Wednesday afternoon.

“Told him America will continue to stand with Venezuela until freedom is restored!” Pence tweeted, adding that “Nicolas Maduro must go.”

The phone call came on the heels of a communique issued by the US State Department on Monday alleging that past talks had been used by the Maduro government to “divide the opposition and gain time.”

“The only thing to negotiate with Nicolas Maduro is the conditions of his departure,” the statement continued, echoing previous comments by Trump administration officials dismissing negotiations with Caracas.

Despite the opposition from Washington, the latest round of talks has been endorsed by the International Contact Group, which brings together a dozen European and Latin American governments along with the European Union in search of a resolution to Venezuela’s crisis.

“The International Contact Group (ICG) welcomes the continuation of the Norwegian facilitated negotiation process between the Venezuelan political actors,” the body said in a joint statement on Sunday.

The ICG held its third meeting in Costa Rica in early May, and the next meeting is scheduled to take place in Lima, Peru, on June 3.

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