Venezuela opposes Norway as facilitator for political talks with opposition

Members of the Venezuelan government and the opposition meet in Mexico City
Jorge Rodriguez, President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, Dag Nylander, Representative of Norway government and Gerardo Blyde Perez, head of the opposition delegation of Venezuela, shake hands after meeting to seek consensus on how to overcome the economic and social crises gripping Venezuela, in Mexico City, Mexico August 13, 2021. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

MEXICO CITY, May 25 (Reuters) - The Venezuelan government is unwilling to resume negotiations with the country's opposition on issues such as free elections and lifting economic sanctions if Norway acts as facilitator as it did last year at talks in Mexico, four sources close to the process told Reuters.

President Nicolas Maduro's government has recently insisted on Russia's presence at any negotiations, two of the sources said. Russia is a strong ally of Maduro's government.

The Venezuelan opposition wants Norway to retain the facilitator role, according to an opposition source who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. The Nordic country has successfully brokered accords to resolve past conflicts in Latin America and elsewhere.

The Venezuelan government and opposition said last week they were ready to return to the negotiating table, but they have not yet set a date. They met last year in Mexico City but Maduro's representatives abandoned those talks in October. read more

Two of the sources said more negotiations are expected in Mexico in the first half of June.

Even though other countries, including Russia, were proposed as observers in the last talks, their presence was never formalized. read more

Venezuela's Information Ministry, the Norwegian and Russian embassies in Caracas and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Washington is strongly encouraging a resumption in talks about elections, freeing political prisoners and other demands.

Reporting by Diego Ore in Mexico City, additional reporting by Marianna Parraga in Houston, Matt Spetalnick in Washington and Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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Thomson Reuters

Covers politics, migration and security in Mexico and Central America, a Peruvian journalist with more than 20 years of experience in Latin America and the Caribbean including at magazines, newspapers and The Associated Press covering elections, coups d'etat, protests, summits, natural disasters and soccer matches.