Venezuelan parliamentary leader Juan Guaido’s refusal to enter talks with President Nicolas Maduro in Norway last week has undermined efforts by European diplomats to set up talks that would preempt U.S. intervention in the embattled country, analysts say – but not everyone thinks that is a bad thing, Voice of America (VoA) reported.
“This time the opposition acted intelligently,” said Miguel Otero, chief editor of the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional, adding that Maduro used past negotiations brokered by Spain to divide the opposition and set preconditions.
Representatives of the European-led international contact group on Venezuela met with Canadian and Chilean officials of the U.S.-led Lima group at the United Nations on Monday. While EU external affairs commissioner Federica Mogherini had said she hoped to get the Lima countries’ support for European-brokered talks with Maduro to organize elections, a joint statement issued after the meeting did not mention the Venezuelan leader by name, VoA adds.
Instead, the statement reiterated support for what it said is the “democratically elected National Assembly” led by Guaido, and affirmed the need to “fully restore and respect its powers,” which have been undercut by Maduro. It also called for the release of all political prisoners.
Maduro received another blow this week with reports that Russia might withdraw hundreds of personnel sent to service military equipment that Moscow has sold to Venezuela. The Wall Street Journal quoted sources saying Russian defense contractor Rostec was withdrawing some of its staff due to business considerations. However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has denied the report.
Russia had backed the EU effort to set up negotiations in Norway between Maduro and the opposition. Last week, Guaido sent representatives to meet with diplomats who had been maintaining secret discussions with Maduro for three months, according to an Associated Press report.
“We call on all states involved in the Venezuela situation to support the launch of the political process in the form of talks between the country’s major forces,” said Russia’s foreign ministry, which also warned against setting “ultimatums” for Maduro.
Guaido backed out of the talks after getting a telephone call from U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, according to Venezuelan officials. Pence tweeted “Maduro must go” as the Norway meetings got under way, while the State Department issued a statement saying that the only issue under discussion should be Maduro’s exit.
Opposition lawmaker Maria Corina Machado published an open letter to Colombian President Ivan Duque saying the talks could make efforts to oust Maduro “lose momentum.”