Venezuela peace talks in Oslo provide glimmer of hope

Oslo: Locked in a bitter power struggle, representatives of Venezuela’s regime and the opposition held peace talks this week in a secret location in Oslo in a bid to end a five-month political crisis, media reported Thursday.
The development was hailed cautiously by experts.
Venezuela has been in political turmoil since assembly speaker Juan Guaido declared himself acting president in January in a direct challenge to President Nicolas Maduro’s authority.
Norway’s NRK radio and television network, quoting anonymous sources, said the peace talks had taken place at a secret location in the Norwegian capital for “several days” and the delegations were due to return to Caracas on Thursday.
It is the second time that such talks have been held in Oslo between Maduro’s regime and Guaido’s representatives, NRK said, adding that negotiations had also taken place in Cuba.
“We can neither confirm nor deny Norway’s involvement in peace processes or dialogue initiatives,” a Norwegian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Ane Haavardsdatter Lunde, said.
Several South American media outlets, such as daily ALnavio, also reported talks were held in the Scandinavian country.
Venezuelan Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez and the governor of Miranda province Hector Rodriguez represented Maduro’s government, media reports said.
The opposition was represented by former deputy Gerardo Blyde, former minister Fernando Martinez Mottola and the vice president of the National Assembly Stalin Gonzalez.
Several official statements appear to lend credence to the reports.
In Caracas, Maduro said Jorge Rodriguez “is overseas, on a very important mission”.
Guaido meanwhile wrote on Twitter, “The Contact Group, Canada, Great Britain, Norway, the Lima group as well as other initiatives are helping us find a solution to the crisis.”
Norway, home of the Nobel Peace Prize and the now-defunct Israeli-Palestinian Oslo accords, has a long tradition of playing the role of “facilitator” in peace processes around the world, including that in Colombia between the government and the FARC rebels in 2016.
Guaido, the leader of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled legislature, has been engaged in a fierce power struggle with Maduro, who has presided over a spiralling political and economic crisis in Venezuela since taking over from late leftist leader Hugo Chavez in 2013.
Maduro was re-elected to a second term in May 2018, in a vote boycotted by the opposition and rejected by much of the international community.
Guaido declared himself acting president on January 23, calling Maduro’s re-election illegitimate.
The opposition leader has since been recognised by more than 50 countries, led by the United States.
Norway however has merely called for new free elections in Venezuela, a position seen as illustrating a willingness to act as a mediator between the two sides.
At the end of January, Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide said her country was “ready to contribute if and when the parties so wish”.
Reports of this week’s talks were hailed, albeit cautiously, by Norwegian South America experts.
“It’s dangerous to read to much into it,” University of Oslo professor Benedicte Bull said.
— AFP