Weakened and unable to bring the political crisis gripping Venezuela to a quick resolution, opposition leader Juan Guaido has been forced to consider negotiations with President Nicolas Maduro – as both sides have now sent representatives to Norway for talks, a concession Guaido previously rejected, the New York Times reported.
This change is a turning point for the opposition, which in January had gathered momentum, attracting broad international backing and huge crowds of supporters. Now, that momentum has nearly dissipated — a testament to Maduro’s firm hold on power even as the country crumbles around him, the Times writes.
In public, Guaido remains upbeat and unwavering. At flash rallies around the capital, Caracas, he implores supporters to keep up the protests. But during an interview, he acknowledged that the opposition’s capacity to operate is hurting.
“The persecution has been savage,” he said in the empty hallway of one of the safe houses he uses.
More than 50 countries — including the United States, Canada and most members of the European Union — recognized Guaido as the country’s legitimate President in January, calling Maduro’s re-election for a second term fraudulent.
Since then, several countries that support Guaido have expressed an openness to other approaches to ending the political paralysis in Venezuela — a big shift from the urgent international calls for Maduro’s removal four months ago.
In an interview in April, Elliott Abrams, the Trump administration’s special envoy for Venezuela, said that for a democratic transition to work, all Venezuelans should be part of it, including those who remain loyal to Maduro.
“They are part of Venezuela’s political scene,” he said. “So we’re just trying to make it clear that we really want a democratic Venezuela. We’re not picking winners.”
Last week, envoys from each side traveled to Norway to meet with government representatives for preliminary talks, according to officials from both sides.
In a speech to public sector workers on Thursday, Guaido said he had agreed to the talks, but restated, “We will not lend ourselves to false negotiations.” He said the goal remained to remove Maduro, establish a transitional government and call free and fair elections.
Meanwhile, Maduro on Monday proposed early elections for the National Assembly, which is headed by Guaido and is the sole body recognized as democratically legitimate by most Western nations, Reuters informed.
The opposition won a majority in the National Assembly in 2015 and the next congressional elections are currently scheduled for late 2020. Maduro did not give an exact new date, and he has previously said he would shift them earlier, without following through.
In a speech at a pro-government rally, Maduro claimed that “we will legitimize the sole institution which has not been legitimized in the last five years.”