August 20, 2019
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Venezulan envoy backs Norway dialogue, warns of sabotage by opposition

Santiago, May 17 (efe-epa).- The Venezuelan ambassador to Chile expressed his support this Friday for the talks in Norway between representatives of his government and the opposition, though he warned about the risk of the dialogue being sabotaged by foes of President Nicolas Maduro.

"We are, as President Maduro says, fully willing to answer a call to dialogue. Every time we're called to talks, our government will be there," Arevalo Mendez told a press conference at the Venezuelan Embassy in Santiago.

Mendez, however, called for "realism" and recalled two previous attempts at dialogue that, in his opinion, failed because of sabotage by the opposition.

The first, he said, was in 2002 after the failed coup d'etat against then-President Hugo Chavez, and the second was the meeting in the Dominican Republic between September 2017 and January 2018.

"No doubt we'll finish a third process and maybe there'll be a fourth, a fifth, a nineteenth. President Maduro's wish is to have talks...despite the two previous sabotages, he wants talks," the ambassador said.

Norwegian authorities confirmed this Friday their role as mediators in the initial phase in order to get a political dialogue started between the Venezuelan government and the opposition.

This Thursday the speaker of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, recognized as Venezuela's interim president by more than 50 countries, reported the news about the contacts, but said they could not yet be called a negotiation.

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

Norwegian public television channel NRK had announced that the contacts between the two parties began in Cuba and there have been several meetings at a secret place in Oslo.

The Venezuelan government delegation is made up of 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.

The Chilean ambassador said this new meeting "does not have the consent" of the US government, an indispensable requirement for the opposition to enter into any kind of dialogue with the Venezuelan government.

He therefore expressed his doubts about whether the three representatives traveling to Oslo have Guaido's approval or that of other outstanding members of the opposition like Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado.

The diplomat described as an "invasion" the expulsion of the activists who remained inside the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington to prevent the mission being taken over by Guaido's envoy.

Mendez spoke of the Maduro government as being "very different" from that of Donald Trump and decided to strengthen security at the US diplomatic legations.

"We won't let that happen in Venezuela," the Venezuelan ambassador said.

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