Venezuelan Peace Talks in Norway Bring Cautious Optimism
“The talks have begun nicely to move toward agreements of peace, agreement, and harmony, and I ask for the support of all Venezuelan people to advance on the path of peace.”
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro declared the start of peace negotiations with the country’s opposition groups in Norway’s capital of Oslo. The negotiations are aimed at ending a period of prolonged political turmoil in the country between the incumbent President Maduro and the opposition led by self-proclaimed president Juan Guaido.
Speaking before 6,500 military personnel in Maracay, Venezuela on Friday, Maduro declared having sent Communication Minister Jorge Rodriguez and the Governor of Miranda Province, Hector Rodriguez, to Oslo for the talks.
“The talks have begun nicely to move toward agreements of peace, agreement, and harmony, and I ask for the support of all Venezuelan people to advance on the path of peace,” Maduro said.
National Assembly vice president Stalin Gonzalez, former deputy Gerardo Blyde and former minister Fernando Martinez Mottola represented the opposition.
Maduro thanked Norway for supporting the peace effort and asked Venezuelans to appreciate the peace dialogue.
Norway, which has extensive experience in mediating international conflict, said publicly it had met Venezuela’s political actors and described the peace negotiation as an “exploration discussion.”
According to Stalin Gonzalez, both sides had a separate meeting with representatives of the Norwegian government, but there were no talks involving politicians from both groups.
“I can confirm that there are dialogues, but I cannot go into details,” Jorge Valero, Venezuela’s ambassador to the U.N., told BBC in Geneva.
Anonymous sources told Norwegian broadcaster NRK, as quoted by the BBC, that representatives from both sides have been engaged in talks for several days and were scheduled to return to Venezuela on Thursday.
There has been no further information about the output of the talks. It is also still unknown whether the mediating process will continue afterward.
Norway has experience in resolving several international conflicts including the conflict between the Colombian government and the now-defunct rebel group FARC in 2016 and the Sri Lanka government and the Liberation Tiger of Tamil Eelam.
How Did the Venezuelan Crisis Begin?
Economic hardship severely struck Venezuela in 2014, when global oil prices fell. Venezuela, where 98 percent of export earnings rely on oil revenue, has seen citizens leave the country to seek a better life in neighboring Colombia and elsewhere.
Should the crisis continue, the number of Venezuelan refugees flooding Colombia may reach 4 million in 2021, as Colombia’s Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo estimated in October 2018.
The situation became further chaotic after opposition groups refused to recognize Maduro’s re-election in 2018 and many boycotted participating in the election. Juan Guaido argued Maduro’s victory in the 2018 election was unconstitutional. Guaido then declared himself the interim president in early 2019.
The U.S. and its allies support Guaido, while the United Nations, Russia, China, Cuba, Turkey and others back Maduro.
The roots of Venezuela’s economic and political crisis have also been linked to U.S.-imposed sanctions and decades of meddling in Venezuelan politics by the U.S. severe crisis to the U.S-imposed sanctions.
After a fact-finding mission to Venezuela in 2017, a former U.N rapporteur said in an August 2018 report that in addition to Venezuelan mismanagement of the oil sector and government corruption, U.S. sanctions had worsened the situation and equivalent to “economic warfare.”
“Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns.
“Twenty-first century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees,” Alfred de Zayas said in his report.
“When I come and I say the emigration is partly attributable to the economic war waged against Venezuela and is partly attributable to the sanctions, people don’t like to hear that. They just want the simple narrative that socialism failed and it failed the Venezuelan people,” de Zayas told The Independent.
“When I came back [the UN and media were] not interested. Because I am not singing the song I’m supposed to sing so I don’t exist … And my report, as I said, was formally presented but there has been no debate on the report. It has been filed away.”
Hope For a Venezuela Solution
The ongoing peace talks may bring hope that the political standoff in Venezuela will end, but Latin America experts warned it was too early to expect an instant solution – especially given previous faltered talks between Venezuela’s government and opposition representatives.
“It’s dangerous to read to much into it. It’s very positive that the two parties are holding talks but it’s very important to not hold out too much hope: there have been formal talks 3 times in the past, and they all collapsed quickly,” University of Oslo professor Benedicte Bull said to AFP.
Leiv Marsteintredet, a professor at the University of Bergen, shared similar thoughts, saying that the talks were in early stages so it was impossible to predict what’s going to happen next.
“We’re still at an early stage and therefore I think it’s very unrealistic to expect any quick results,” he told AFP.