Caracas, May 20 (EFE).- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday called the first day of contacts with the opposition “very positive” as the two sides launched a dialogue, while noting that he is not naive and pledging to go on “preparing to defend the homeland, wherever, whenever and however may be” necessary.
“We held the first day (of talks) with the mediation of the Norwegian government,” said Maduro at an event with supporters to celebrate the first anniversary of his re-election victory, a victory that has been rejected by the opposition and their foreign backers.
“Very positive, I have to say. I’m a man who believes in the word as the vehicle to overcome differences,” the leftist president said.
Last Thursday, opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized as Venezuela’s interim president by more than 50 nations, confirmed that contacts are being pursued between the government and the opposition in Oslo, sponsored by Norway, although he warned that these talks must lead to the “end of the usurpation” of power, which is how he refers to Maduro’s second term in office.
However, Guaido said on Saturday that the Maduro government is “so weak” that it wants to “manipulate” the dialogue with the opposition.
“We’re not going to fool ourselves. They are so weak that they wanted to manipulate us with a dialogue, we went at the invitation of a friendly country like Norway,” said Guaido during an event in the town of Guatire, near Caracas.
In response, Maduro said on Monday: “Now, don’t think I’m a nitwit … I believe in peace, I believe in dialogue, but I’m preparing the people to defend the homeland.”
“I know who I’m talking to. We’re talking with the devil. May God protect us … but you have to talk even with the devil himself for Venezuela’s calm and prosperity,” said Maduro.
“I’m going to insist with all my strength and dedication that Venezuela have a peace agreement with the Venezuelan opposition, an agreement of concord and respect, and for them to return to the constitutional path,” he said.
In that vein, Maduro suggested pushing forward the country’s legislative elections scheduled for 2020.
“I have a proposal … to the opposition: We’re going to measure ourselves electorally … We’re going into moved-up elections for the National Assembly to see who has the votes, … to see who wins,” he said.
Maduro remarked that the opposition-controlled assembly is the “only institution that has not legitimized itself in the last five years,” referring to last year’s presidential election and to a series of state and municipal ballots as well as to a round of voting in 2017 for a National Constituent Assembly (ANC).
“We’re going to have elections. We’re moving toward a peaceful, electoral, democratic, constitutional solution,” he said.
The National Assembly has been the only government body in the hands of Venezuela’s oppositions since winning legislative elections in 2015.
Early in the term, however, the Supreme Court declared the assembly in contempt over its insistence on seating several members accused of electoral fraud.
In 2017, Maduro sponsored the creation of the ANC, dominated by government supporters, which has since assumed duties and responsibilities exclusivel