July 24, 2020 / 10:17 PM / 19 days ago

Norway reps to visit Venezuela after failed political dialogue: Venezuelan opposition

CARACAS (Reuters) - Norwegian government representatives plan to visit Venezuela again, the South American country’s political opposition said on Friday.

The visit comes almost a year after the end of an attempt by Oslo to mediate between Venezuela’s bitterly divided government and opposition.

In a statement, the opposition said Norway had informed it that the representatives would arrive “in the coming hours” and would observe the country’s “political and humanitarian” situation.

Norway’s foreign ministry last year facilitated several rounds of dialogue between Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro and the opposition, led by National Assembly speaker Juan Guaido, who is recognized as Venezuela’s rightful leader by the United States and dozens of other countries.

The opposition declared those talks dead in September, stating that Maduro - a socialist who is accused of rigging his 2018 re-election vote and has overseen a six-year economic crisis - was unwilling to seriously negotiate for a new election.

In its Friday statement, the opposition said it reiterated to the Norwegian representatives that the dialogue process ended last year.

“There is not any dialogue process underway at this moment, and we reiterated to the Norweigian delegation that only free and fair elections can solve this crisis.

Neither Norway’s foreign ministry nor Venezuela’s information ministry immediately responded to requests for comment. Maduro calls Guaido a U.S. puppet seeking to oust him in a coup.

The visit comes ahead of an expected Dec. 6 parliamentary election, which the opposition has warned that Maduro is trying to rig. The government-friendly Supreme Court has ousted the leaders of prominent opposition parties, and replaced them with politicians seen as shadow allies of the ruling socialists.

Earlier this year, allies of Maduro and Guaido secretly began exploratory talks about as concerns grew about the spread of the coronavirus in Venezuela.

Reporting by Deisy Buitrago in Caracas and Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by David Gregorio

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