The Venezuelan government and opposition have sent envoys to Norway to attend talks on ways of ending the South American country's crisis though their mutual mistrust and differences on key issues are likely to slow chances of progress. Delegations from the two opposing camps had received separate invitations from a group of Norwegians after months of street demonstrations and calls for a coup attempt against the Venezuelan government.
Venezuela has been rocked by protests since Jan. 10 when President Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a second term following a vote boycott by the opposition. Tensions climbed on Jan. 23 when Juan Guaidó, the head of the National Assembly, declared himself interim president, but Maduro has so far refused calls to step down.
The Norway dialogue comes as a mostly European group of nations prepare to send a high-level delegation to Venezuela to propose solutions to the country's protracted crisis. The International Contact Group consists of eight European countries, the European Union and four Latin American countries. The group formed after Guaidó declared himself Venezuela's interim president early this year in a direct challenge to the rule of President Maduro.
For the third time this year, the U.S.' attempt to remove democratically elected President Maduro from power has turned out to be a bust. After an uprising in Venezuela quickly fizzled out, President Maduro blamed the U.S. government of orchestrating a coup attempt against his country.
Maduro has thwarted the latest coup attempt against his government, as Guido's call on the military appeared not to have triggered a wider revolt. The military has so far supported the country's democratically elected Maduro and refused to back Guaido. Maduro has called Guaidó a U.S-backed "puppet" that seeks to oust him in a coup.
The opposition, which is backed by the U.S. and about 50 other nations, says Venezuela's dire economic state is the result of years of corruption and mismanagement. Maduro blames the country's problems on U.S. sanctions that were imposed more recently. On Wednesday, the U.S. suspended all commercial passenger and cargo flights between the U.S. and Venezuela, saying the political unrest and tensions there pose a risk to flights. The announcement by the Department of Homeland Security affected a dwindling number of flights between the two countries since U.S. airlines no longer fly to Venezuela. The measure reflected the increasingly sour relationship between the Venezuelan government and the U.S.