May 23, 2019
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Venezuela's Guaido confirms talks in Norway with Maduro gov't

Caracas, May 16 (efe-epa).- Self-proclaimed Venezuelan interim president Juan Guaido said here Thursday that his representatives have been meeting in Norway with officials from the government of incumbent head of state Nicolas Maduro, confirming reports in Norwegian media.

"Yes, there are some people who were sent to Norway," he said during a meeting with supporters in Caracas.

The National Assembly speaker said he would not take part in a "false negotiation that does not lead to three things: end of the usurpation (Maduro's presidency), a transitional government and free elections."

Guaido, who proclaimed himself acting president on Jan. 23, denounces Maduro's May 2018 re-election as illegitimate, a position shared by the United States and other among the upwards of 50 nations who have recognized the opposition leader.

More than 120 other countries - including Russia, China, India and Japan - continue to acknowledge Maduro as president.

Norwegian television network NRK, citing unnamed sources, reported that contacts between the Maduro and Guaido camps began in Cuba before shifting to the Scandinavian country.

NRK said that talks have been held at a secret location in Oslo with the participation of Norway's foreign ministry, which declined to comment on the story.

Representing the Maduro government are Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez and the governor of Miranda state, Hector Rodriguez, according to NRK, while Guaido sent deputy National Assembly speaker Stalin Gonzalez, former lawmaker Gerardo Blyde and one-time government minister Fernando Martinez Mottola.

"There is no type of negotiation," Guaido said in Caracas, only a response to an appeal made by Norway as part of a months-long mediation effort by Oslo.

"It's another initiative from a country that wants to collaborate" in resolving the crisis in Venezuela, he said, adding that "no magic formula exists."

Guaido said that the meetings in Norway were similar to ones he has held with foreign diplomats and officials, such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the discussions his envoy in Washington is scheduled to have with US military commanders.

The assembly speaker urged his supporters not to confuse "objectives, achievements, accomplishment and dreams with the mechanisms to reach them."

During the same event, Guaido announced that he had issued a "pardon" to a former police commander convicted in connection with killings during an abortive 2002 coup against Maduro's predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez.

"Inspector Ivan Simonovis is free today as a result of that Operation Liberty that we are carrying out," Guaido said. "He was liberated."

Simonovis, who was sentenced to 30 years in 2009, had been serving his time under house arrest since 2014.

Word began circulating early Thursday that Simonovis had eluded his guards and left the residence.

Simonovis and two other high-ranking police, Lazaro Forero and Henry Vivas, were found guilty for the deaths of eight of the 19 people who were killed on April 11, 2002, when snipers - some of them cops - opened fire on opposition protesters as they marched to the presidential palace to demand that Chavez step down.

Senior military officers seized on the violence as a pretext to oust Chavez, though their video announcing the move against the president was subsequently found to have been recorded before the shooting began.

While members of the top brass forced Chavez from office, commanders at bases outside Caracas were uneasy with the removal of an elected president and the head of state was restored to power within 48 hours.

EFE

rgc-gdl/dr

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