Norway-mediated dialogue with Venezuela ends

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido during a session of Venezuela’s National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela. (Reuters pic) 

CARACAS: Venezuela’s opposition said on Sunday a dialogue mediated by Norway’s Foreign Ministry to try to resolve the country’s political crisis had ended, six weeks after President Nicolas Maduro’s government suspended participation.

The talks, most of which had taken place on the Caribbean island of Barbados, began after opposition leader Juan Guaido led a failed military uprising in April against Maduro, who is accused of human rights violations and has overseen an economic collapse that has prompted millions to flee.

Maduro’s representatives walked away from the table in August to protest US President Donald Trump’s tightening of sanctions on the OPEC nation.

Critics of the dialogue within Venezuela’s opposition coalition argued that Maduro was negotiating in bad faith and used the talks to buy time.

“The dictatorial regime of Nicolas Maduro abandoned the negotiation process with false excuses,” Guaido’s office said in a statement posted on Twitter. “After more than 40 days in which they have refused to continue, we confirm that the Barbados mechanism is finished.”

Neither Venezuela’s Information Ministry nor Norway’s Foreign Ministry immediately responded to a request for comment.

Guaido – the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly – invoked Venezuela’s constitution in January to assume an interim presidency, arguing Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate.

He has been recognised as Venezuela’s rightful leader by dozens of countries, including the United States.

But Maduro, who calls Guaido a coup-mongering US puppet, has held on to power despite a deepening economic slowdown and growing international isolation.

The military has not abandoned him despite repeated calls by the opposition to do so, and he retains the support of Russia and China.

Opposition negotiators had said Maduro’s representatives were unwilling to discuss the opposition’s main priority – holding a new election under free and fair conditions.

In its Sunday statement, which it called a message to “the people and the armed forces,” Guaido’s office thanked Norway for facilitating the process but did not specify the next steps it would take.

“We must prepare to begin a new phase of this struggle that will require greater commitment, strength, determination, sacrifice and conviction from everyone,” the statement said.