Norway’s foreign ministry refused official comment, but Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) and other media are reporting that representatives for both Venezuela’s Maduro government and the opposition have been meeting “on Norwegian soil” this week for the second time. Norwegian foreign affairs experts don’t think Nicolas Maduro will remain as sitting president much longer.
“It’s impossible to see that Venezuela will be able to see any positive economic and social development with the sitting government,” Leiv Marsteintredet, an assistant professor at the University of Bergen, told newspaper Dagsavisen on Thursday. He thinks only a regime change can bring improvements in Venezuela, and he’s far from alone. Senior researcher Aslak Orre at the Chr. Michelsen Institutt thinks the solution involves ongoing broad mobilization of the vast majority of Venezuelans who want to see Maduro replaced. Establishment of a transitional government could lead to a new free and fair election, Orre told Dagsavisen.
Norway called in to help
Norway has a long tradition for brokering settleements in some of the world’s most troubled countries. Venezuelan peace talks in Oslo or some other secret Norwegian location had been expected for months. The Norwegian government had been criticized earlier this year for refusing to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as the duly elected leader in Venezuela, but experts suggested as early as February that there was a need for Norwegian officials to remain impartial.
NRK reported Wednesday night that negotiations for a regime change in Venezuela have taken place in Cuba, where Norway also played a major role in peace talks for Colombia. Then negotiators reportedly moved to Oslo and have huddled in the Norwegian capital this week, with plans to depart on Thursday, on the eve of Norway’s own Constitution Day.
“I don’t think I can comment on this,” Per Wiggen, a spokesman for Norway’s foreign ministry, told newspaper VG Wednesday night after media outside Norway had reported on talks in Oslo. NRK reported that the foreign ministry is involved in the talks, which can explain why Norway has remained officially neutral on the turmoil in Venezuela when many of its allies and not least the US have called repeatedly on Maduro to step down and turn over power to Guaido.
NRK reported that the talks in Norway are being carried out “in understanding with the US.” At least one Norwegian professor believes the US asked Norway to oversee negotiations months ago.
NRK reported that representatives for Maduro in Norway have included Hector Rodriguez, government of the Miranda province, and Jorge Rodriguez, communications minister for Maduro. Representatives for the opposition include Gerardo Blyde, a former member of the Venezuela parliament, and Fernando Martinez Mottola, a former minister the government of Carlos Andres Perez.
Venezuela remains in political chaos after Guaido declared himself as the country’s acting president. He quickly received support from the US and many other countries, while the US also imposed sanctions on Maduros’ regime. Maduro, who has had support from Russia, has blamed the US for much of his troubles and the economic disaster in a country that arguably should be prosperous because of its oil resources.