Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Saturday he would send delegates to Oslo next week for the first face-to-face meeting with representatives of President Nicolas Maduro’s government as part of a Norway-led mediation effort.
They “will talk with both the Norwegian government and with representatives of the regime”, Guaido said in a statement, after the two Venezuelan sides traveled separately to the Norwegian capital last week without meeting.
Guaido, recognized by the United States and dozens of other countries as Venezuela’s interim president, said the opposition delegation will be headed by deputy parliament speaker Stalin Gonzalez and the ex-deputy Gerardo Blyde, both of whom were involved in the initial talks with the Norwegians.
Media reports said Venezuelan Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez and the governor of Miranda province 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.
Earlier on Saturday, Guaido told supporters in Carora, Lara state that “nobody is ever going to get us here confused about a false dialogue.”
He said there had been no “negotiation” in the earlier meetings in Norway, and that any deal should include mediation leading to Maduro’s departure and new elections being scheduled.
“We are going to insist,” he said, “because today by combining all our strategies, using all the tools we have, we are going to get to that final step,” Guaido said, referring to street protests and multiple levels of diplomacy.
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.
Guaido tried to incite a military uprising against Maduro on April 30 but only about 30 members of the armed forces joined him.
The socialist regime has since ramped up pressure on Guaido’s allies and supporters, charging 10 lawmakers with treason.
The pro-government Constituent Assembly recently stripped 14 opposition lawmakers of their legislative immunity over their support for the failed uprising.