Dialogue between Venezuela’s opposition and President Nicolas Maduro’s government will resume in Barbados, self-declared interim president Juan Guaido said on Sunday, after previous negotiations in Norway petered out.
“In response to the mediation of the Kingdom of Norway (the opposition) will attend a meeting with representatives of the usurper regime in Barbados, to establish a negotiation on the end of the dictatorship,” Guaido said in a statement, without giving a date for talks to resume.
Maduro’s government suggested talks would resume this week.
Delegations representing the Venezuelan rivals met face-to-face in Oslo for the first time in late May, in a process begun two weeks earlier under Norwegian auspices to find a solution to the South American country’s economic and political crises.
Oil-rich Venezuela has been ravaged by five years of recession marked by shortages of food, medicine and other basic necessities.
It plunged deeper into political turmoil in January when National Assembly speaker Guaido declared himself acting president in a direct challenge to Maduro’s authority.
On Sunday Guaido also announced that he would push for Caracas to rejoin the Inter-American Defense Treaty, which Venezuela left in 2012.
Some opposition lawmakers believe the treaty, from which Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua have also withdrawn, could legally allow foreign military intervention to overthrow Maduro.
“We have the legitimate right to build the international capacities and alliances necessary to protect and defend our people and our sovereignty,” Guaido said on Twitter.
Guaido is recognized by the United States and more than 50 other countries but has been unable to dislodge Maduro, who is backed by Cuba, Russia and China.
Last Tuesday, Guaido had said there were no plans to re-open talks with the “murderous dictatorship” of Maduro, following the death of an officer in custody over an alleged coup plot.
The suspicious death of retired naval officer Rafael Acosta Arevalo sparked international condemnation.
Guaido said at that time, though, that if fresh talks aimed at “facilitating the cessation of the usurpation” of Maduro were announced, “We will officially communicate.”
In a tweet, Maduro’s Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez implicitly corroborated Guaido’s announcement by reproducing a Norwegian Foreign Ministry statement.
“The two parties will meet this week in Barbados to move forward in the search for a negotiated and constitutional solution,” the statement said.
The Barbados talks will be the third round since May.
Guaido wants them to lead towards Maduro’s departure from the presidency he has held since 2013, to a transitional government, and then “free elections with international observers.”
Some in the opposition criticize dialogue as a way for Maduro to “buy time,” but Guaido responds it is a means to “put an end to the suffering of Venezuelans.”
Political scientist Jesus Castillo-Molleda told AFP “the opposition cannot defeat the government, neither alone nor with the help of the United States government.”
This means it has to look for other ways to reach agreements in favor of elections, the analyst said.
Maduro has repeatedly said that the dialogue “will continue” with the opposition, “for peace in Venezuela.”
During a parade last Friday celebrating the country’s independence, Maduro said there would be “good news” this week about the negotiations.
Guaido calls Maduro a “usurper” for staying in power after a 2018 election widely dismissed as a sham.
Venezuela is suffering from hyperinflation in an economic crisis that has forced millions to flee. The UN estimates that more than seven million Venezuelans are in need of urgent humanitarian aid.
But Maduro has withstood a US-led pressure campaign that includes sanctions on Venezuela’s crucial oil exports.
He has accused the opposition of working on behalf of Washington and called them “putchist.”