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Guaido prepares diplomatic offensive, downplays meeting in Norway

The Venezuelan opposition was on Thursday preparing diplomatic action on several fronts in its campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro, while opposition leader Juan Guaido downplayed the importance of a visit by his envoys to Norway.

Oslo, 17 May 2019 (dpa/MIA) – The Venezuelan opposition was on Thursday preparing diplomatic action on several fronts in its campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro, while opposition leader Juan Guaido downplayed the importance of a visit by his envoys to Norway.

Guaido confirmed that Norway was mediating between the government and the opposition, but denied that the two parties were negotiating.

“It is an effort by Norway for a mediation, which has been going on for months. This was the second invitation to Oslo. All the rest is speculation,” daily El Nacional quoted the opposition leader as saying.

“We shall not lend ourselves to any kind of false negotiations,” Guaido said at a press conference.

He described the Norwegian mediation as one initiative among many and announced that his US envoy Carlos Vecchio will meet with the US Southern Command on Monday.

As his power struggle with Maduro has intensified in recent weeks, Guaido has repeatedly referred to the possibility of a US military intervention to topple the president, though analysts consider such a move unlikely for the time being.

The opposition wants to make use of all the initiatives by different countries and international organizations that can help create “political change” in Venezuela, daily El Universal quoted Guaido as saying.

The International Contact Group for Venezuela, which includes European and Latin American nations, was due to discuss the Venezuelan crisis on Thursday. Guaido has also received support from the Lima Group of American countries and the Organization of American States.

The foreign ministers of Canada and Cuba – a key Maduro ally – meanwhile discussed Venezuela behind closed doors in Havana.

“Cuba confirms its readiness to contribute initiatives which promote a respectful dialogue with the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela on the basis of the sovereign equality of the states,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez tweeted after the meeting.

According to Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, the Venezuelan opposition and government have previously held talks in Cuba.

In a separate development, Guaido announced the release from house arrest of Venezuelan former police commissioner Ivan Simonovis, whom the opposition regards as one of the country’s longest-term political prisoners.

“Democratic forces” released Simonovis, Guaido said on Twitter, after the opposition figure’s disappearance from his Caracas home had sparked concern that intelligence agents may have jailed him.

The former police commissioner was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2009 in connection with the killing of demonstrators during unrest preceding a failed coup against then president Hugo Chavez in 2002.

Simonovis’ long prison sentence became a rallying cry for the opposition. He was granted house arrest in 2014 due to his frail health.

Guaido announced Simonovis’ release two weeks after soldiers supportive of the opposition had freed another key opposition figure, Leopoldo Lopez, from house arrest. Lopez subsequently sought refuge at the Spanish embassy in Caracas.

Venezuela has experienced a massive economic and political crisis under Maduro, who won a second term in an election boycotted by most of the opposition a year ago.

More than 3 million Venezuelans have fled abroad amid hyperinflation and goods shortages.

Guaido declared himself interim president in January and soon won support from the United States and dozens of other countries. Norway is not among the nations having recognized him as Venezuela’s leader.

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