Venezuela’s Guaido says Norway talks to continue

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said talks hosted by Norway between his delegation and that of President Nicolas Maduro would continue despite Wednesday’s discussions ending “without agreement.”

“We thank the Norwegian government for its desire to contribute to a solution to the chaos our country is suffering. We’re prepared to continue alongside them,” Guaido said in a statement.

Maduro also expressed support for dialogue on Wednesday, saying in televised remarks that: “I believe in dialogue. Our path is dialogue, respect for the constitution, peace, democracy.”

Delegations representing the Venezuelan rivals met face-to-face in Oslo for the first time this week in a process begun two weeks ago under Norwegian auspices to find a solution to the South American country’s economic and political crises.

Venezuela has been ravaged by five years of recession marked by shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicines.

It was plunged deeper into political turmoil in January when National Assembly speaker Guaido declared himself acting president in a direct challenge to Maduro’s authority.

He was quickly backed by more than 50 countries in his bid to oust the socialist leader that the National Assembly has branded illegitimate over his controversial re-election last year in polls the opposition claims were fraudulent.

Despite agreeing to talks, Guaido insisted in his statement that the opposition’s aims have not changed.

“We’ve ratified our plan: the end of the usurpation, a transitional government and free elections, as a route to solve the tragedy our Venezuela is suffering today,” said Guaido.

He also insisted that the Oslo talks “don’t stop the opposition’s efforts in every constitutional area” to force Maduro from power.

‘Willingness to move forward’

The idea of talks has proved unpopular with opposition supporters in Venezuela, where months of street protests and even an uprising supported by around 30 members of the armed forces have failed to dislodge Maduro.

“The parties have demonstrated their willingness to move forward in the search for an agreed-upon and constitutional solution for the country, which includes political, economic and electoral matters,” the Norwegian ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement after the talks concluded on Wednesday.

“In order to preserve a process that can lead to results, the parties are requested to show their utmost caution in their comments and statements regarding the process,” it added.

No details about the exact contents of the discussions were revealed.

Oil-rich but cash-strapped Venezuela is suffering its worst economic crisis in recent history, with inflation expected to reach 10 million percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

A quarter of its 30 million population is in urgent need of aid, according to the United Nations, while its people face failing public services such as water, electricity and transport.

The UN also says three million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015.

As the host country of the Nobel Peace Prize and the place where Israeli-Palestinian Oslo agreements were negotiated, Norway has a tradition of being a “facilitator” in peace processes, including the accord struck between the Colombian government and FARC rebels in 2016.

© Agence France-Presse

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