Venezuela crisis: Opposition announces talks in Barbados

  • 8 July 2019- BBC NEWS

President Nicolás Maduro versus Juan Guaidó

Talks between the Venezuelan opposition and the government to resolve the country’s political crisis will resume this week in Barbados.

The Norwegian foreign ministry, which has been acting as a mediator, said the two sides would meet “to move forward in the search for a negotiated and constitutional solution”.

The two sides have been engaged in a bitter power struggle since January.   Preliminary talks held in May in Oslo petered out without an agreement.

What is known about the talks?         

So far, hardly any details have emerged. Neither the exact date nor who will attend has been announced.

Juan Guaidó, the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, laid out the opposition’s aim on Twitter. The statement [in Spanish] said the goal was to “negotiate a way out from the dictatorship”.

Juan Guaidó attends an opposition rally on 5 JulyImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
 Juan Guaidó wants President Maduro to cede power

The roadmap the opposition proposes consists of three points:

  • an end to the “usurpation of power” by the government of President Nicolás Maduro
  • a transitional government
  • free elections monitored by international observers

The government’s communications minister, Jorge Rodríguez, also tweeted, saying he was praying for the government’s efforts “to consolidate peace and national understanding to bear fruit”.

What’s the background?

Mr Guaidó and President Maduro have been at loggerheads since January, when the former invoked the constitution and declared himself interim president, arguing that the elections which had returned Mr Maduro to power for a second term in 2018 had not been free and fair.

Since then, more than 50 countries, including the United States and most nations in Latin America, have recognised Mr Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

President Maduro at a graduation ceremony of the armed forces
The armed forces remain loyal to President Maduro

But Venezuela’s military – a powerful force in the country – and influential allies such as China and Russia have stuck by Mr Maduro.

An attempt by Mr Guaidó to get the military to switch allegiance to him failed, and the country remains in limbo with both men claiming to be the legitimate president.

Meanwhile, a severe economic crisis has exacerbated and shortages of food and medicines have grown even more acute. United Nations figures suggest four million people have fled the country since 2015.

The government blames the shortages on US sanctions but the opposition says they are down to years of mismanagement.

Why are the talks controversial?

Just a week ago Mr Guaidó ruled out a return to negotiations, citing as a reason the death in custody of an army captain whose body showed signs of torture.

In the statement he released, Mr Guaidó did not say why his stance had changed. Some in the opposition say the talks are a ruse by the government to buy itself more time in power.

Previous negotiations have broken down without an agreement and some in the opposition say the government’s crackdown on rival politicians – with more than a dozen opposition lawmakers being stripped of their parliamentary immunity and others being detained – shows President Maduro has no real interest in negotiating.

A United Nations report released on Friday said the Venezuelan government was using a strategy of instilling fear in its population to retain power. The Venezuelan government responded by saying the UN report was one-sided and biased.

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