By Anatoly Kurmanaev

New York Times News Service

CARACAS, Venezuela — It was a daring gambit: Juan Guaidó, Venezuela’s opposition leader, stood by a military base alongside dozens of uniformed officers and political allies, calling for a military uprising against President Nicolás Maduro.

Three weeks later, Guaidó is shuttling among a half-dozen safe houses to escape capture. Most of the men who stood with him by the base that day, and many of the legislators who support him, are in jail or sheltering in foreign embassies. Soldiers routinely shut down the National Assembly that Guaidó leads.

The protests that filled the streets with Guaidó’s supporters are dwindling as Venezuelans, struggling with a crumbling economy and shortages of food, gasoline and medication, return to the business of surviving.

Guaidó has been forced to consider negotiations with Maduro. Both sides have sent representatives to Norway for talks, a concession Guaidó previously rejected.

This change is a turning point for the opposition, which in January had gathered momentum, attracting broad international backing and huge crowds of supporters. Now, that momentum has nearly dissipated — a testament to Maduro’s firm hold on power even as the country crumbles.

More than 50 countries — including the United States, Canada and most members of the European Union — recognized Guaidó as the country’s legitimate president in January, calling Maduro’s reelection for a second term fraudulent.

Since then, several countries that support Guaidó have expressed an openness to other approaches to ending the political paralysis in Venezuela — a big shift from the urgent international calls for Maduro’s removal four months ago.

In an interview in April, Elliott Abrams, the Trump administration’s special envoy for Venezuela, said that for a democratic transition to work, all Venezuelans should be part of it, including those who remain loyal to Maduro.

“They are part of Venezuela’s political scene,” he said. “So we’re just trying to make it clear that we really want a democratic Venezuela. We’re not picking winners.”

President Donald Trump has since turned his international focus to Iran, dashing for the time being any hopes that members of the opposition may have had of securing U.S. military support.

Despairing of a quick resolution, Guaidó’s European allies have redoubled efforts to secure a negotiated pact between the opposition and the government, moving the main front in Venezuela’s political battle to the diplomatic arena, said Félix Seijas, the director of Caracas-based pollster Delphos, which has advised the opposition.

In a speech to public sector workers Thursday, Guaidó said he had agreed to the talks, but restated, “We will not lend ourselves to false negotiations.”

23264489