Hundreds of Venezuelans stage pro-Guaidó rally in Madrid

Hundreds of Venezuelans rallied in central Madrid late Tuesday in support of their country's self-proclaimed leader Juan Guaidó, as riots broke out in faraway Caracas.

Hundreds of Venezuelans stage pro-Guaidó rally in Madrid
Photo: AFP

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his government have vowed to put down what they see as an attempted coup by the US-based opposition leader.

But as police fired tear gas at the crowds in Caracas, around 300 people gathered in the Puerta del Sol square in Madrid in support of the 35-year-old National Assembly leader, waving Venezuelan flags and brandishing banners with slogans such as “Maduro is destroying Venezuela”.

“This isn't a state coup,” a former mayor of Caracas and opposition politician, Antonio Ledezma, told the small crowd in the Spanish capital, which included Venezuelan opposition figures, as well as officials from Spain's conservative Popular Party and centre-right Ciudadanos.

A spokeswoman for the Spanish government had earlier said Madrid “strongly hope(d) that there will be no bloodshed” in Venezuela.

Spokeswoman Isabel Celaa called for “democratic elections” and said Madrid supports a “peaceful” outcome to the Venezuela crisis.

Spain has thrown its support behind Guaidó, whom it recognises as interim leader of economically-strapped Venezuela over President Nicolas Maduro.

Separately, Air France on Tuesday said that a passenger plane en route to Caracas was returned to Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport due to “events in Venezuela”.

“After analysing the situation, it was decided that flight AF368 should return to Paris-Charles de Gaulle,” said an airline spokesman, adding that it was “monitoring the situation in real time” and would inform passengers of any future flight changes.

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Venezuela’s Maduro hails start of Norway-brokered talks with opposition

President Nicolas Maduro welcomed Friday the "beginning of talks" with the Venezuelan opposition in Norway, after months of bloody clashes between the two sides.

Venezuela's Maduro hails start of Norway-brokered talks with opposition
Photo: AFP

“The talks have begun nicely to move toward agreements of peace, agreement and harmony, and I ask for the support of all Venezuelan people to advance on the path of peace,” Maduro said in a declaration at a ceremony in front of 6,500 troops in the northern state of Aragua.

Confronted with the worst socio-economic crisis in the oil-producing country's recent history, the socialist leader added that “Venezuela has to process its conflicts” and seek solutions “by way of peace.”

He declared the “beginning and exploration of conversations and dialogues” with the opposition.

Maduro's depiction of the talks was at odds with opposition leader Juan Guaido who Thursday denied they were underway.

“There is no negotiation whatsoever,” Guaido made clear in comments to reporters. Instead, Norwegian officials were “trying to mediate” with both sides to bring them to the table.

Friday's ceremony in Aragua was attended by Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez and Miranda state Governor Hector Rodriguez, the government's representatives in the Oslo talks.

Maduro hailed the “good news” hours after Norway reported on preliminary contacts between the parties.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza gave the first official confirmation from Caracas of its involvement in what Norway referred to as exploratory discussions in Oslo.

The mediation bid comes after a months-long power struggle between National Assembly leader Guaido and the socialist president, with sometimes deadly street clashes.

Maduro on Thursday made no direct reference to the meetings, but said Rodriguez was “on a very important mission for peace in the country… in Europe.”

So far, details of the exact process underway in Oslo have been scant.

Norway's foreign ministry said in a statement it had made “preliminary contacts with representatives of the main political actors of Venezuela.”

These were “part of an exploratory phase, with the aim of contributing to finding a solution to the situation in the country,” it added.

The opposition said it was being represented by National Assembly vice president Stalin Gonzalez and former lawmaker Gerardo Blyde.

US-backed Guaido is recognized by dozens of countries as interim president after dismissing Maduro's presidency as “illegitimate” following his re-election last year in polls widely dismissed as rigged.

Maduro has been shunned by much of the international community for presiding over the country's economic collapse, which has led to shortages of basic goods — forcing millions to flee — as well as brutally suppressing dissent.

He retains the backing of major creditors Russia, China and Cuba, as well as the powerful military.

Shortages of basic goods have forced millions to flee Venezuela.