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Venezuela’s Guaido defends planned talks with Maduro representatives

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido on Sunday defended his decision to send delegates to Oslo for talks with representatives of President Nicolas Maduro’s government, warning that critics of the move risk becoming accomplices of his rival’s “dictatorship.”

“We have to play on all the boards… we have to have an active presence in all places,” Guaido told hundreds of supporters in Barquisimeto in Venezuela’s Lara state.

“From Lara to Norway, from Caracas to Washington, our demands are the same. Whoever wants us to renounce the pressure in the street or in international scenarios in order to stop the takeover, becomes an accomplice of the dictatorship,” he later tweeted.

Guaido, recognized by the United States and dozens of other countries as Venezuela’s interim president, said Saturday that the opposition delegation will be headed by deputy legislative speaker Stalin Gonzalez and the ex-deputy Gerardo Blyde.

Media reports said Venezuelan Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez and the governor of Miranda state Hector Rodriguez represented Maduro’s government in the initial talks, but it was unclear if they would participate in next week’s meeting.

Guaido has appeared cautious about talking with Maduro’s representatives since the idea is unpopular with the opposition base that has spent months in the streets trying to push Maduro out.

The bid for talks comes after a months-long power struggle between National Assembly leader Guaido and the socialist president, with sometimes deadly street clashes.

Guaido’s backers dismiss Maduro’s presidency as “illegitimate” following his re-election last year in polls widely labeled as rigged.

Maduro has been shunned by much of the international community for presiding over the country’s economic collapse, which has led to shortages of basic goods — forcing millions to flee — as well as brutally suppressing dissent.

He retains the backing of major creditors Russia, China and Cuba, as well as the powerful military.

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