Talks in Norway to resolve Venezuela crisis hit dead end

The talks in Norway between representatives of Venezuela’s interim President Juan Guaidó and the Nicolás Maduro regime reached a stalemate on Wednesday after it became clear Maduro would refuse to step down, sources familiar with the process said.

“Between the different points discussed, the Guaidó delegation went with a mandate that any proposal concerning a presidential election was conditioned on Maduro not holding power,” said one of the sources.

“These people [Maduro’s representatives] did not accept [that mandate], and they went and consulted with [representatives in] Caracas and they also did not accept, and that led to not reaching an agreement,” the source said.

Those with knowledge of the negotiations said that Wednesday’s events don’t mean the talks held in Oslo have been completely abandoned, adding that they could be picked up again at any time. But dialogue seems to be at a dead end, at least for now, given the vast differences between Maduro loyalists and the opposition.

Norway began having diplomatic contact in February with members of both sides and with countries such as Cuba, Colombia and the United States in preparation for the dialogue.

Under the Norwegian road map to end the crisis, the different sides would agree to general elections for the presidency and the National Assembly, a proposal similar to the ones made earlier by the European Union and the so-called International Contact Group.

The voting would be held under close international scrutiny, but few in Venezuela believe that free and transparent elections can be held in the country while Maduro is in power.

The stalemate does not come as a surprise, “given that the opposition’s negotiation mandate is very narrow: Maduro resigns or nothing,” said a Norwegian source familiar with the talks. “If they only want to negotiate the conditions of Maduro’s surrender, then of course there won’t be an agreement. Their position has to be more realistic.”

Still, Norway deems it a victory that the opposition remains willing to return to the table.

Guaidó, whose interim presidency is recognized by the United States and more than 50 other countries, said that his representatives insisted in the meeting that any negotiations would be held under the premise established by his own road map to recover Venezuela’s democracy, which starts with Maduro stepping down.

Guaidó representatives also said that his movement would continue with street protests in Venezuela against Maduro.

“This encounter ended without an accord. We have insisted that the mediation would be useful for Venezuela just as long as there are elements that allow us to advance in favor of a real solution,” Guaidó’s office said in a press release.

Sources said it would be difficult for Guaidó to modify his position, given the unpopularity of any proposal to negotiate with Maduro, who in the past has engaged in talks just to buy time and release internal pressure.

National Assembly Deputy William Barrientos said that Guaidó received the green light from his colleagues to take part in the talks in Oslo so long as it was understood that any process would first start with Maduro stepping down.

“All of the deputies know, and we made it known to Guaidó behind closed doors, just like the rest of the fundamental organizations...that there is no possibility of reaching an agreement if Maduro’s usurpation of power does not cease,” Barrientos said. “That is a condition.”

He added that he does not believe an accord can be reached in Oslo, stating that Maduro has proven that he is willing to remain in power at any cost.

“These talks will end in nothing,” he said.