Venezuela Accepts Vatican Role in Dialogue With Opposition

  • Vatican’s inclusion announced by Unasur’s Ernesto Samper
  • Opposition mounting recall referendum vote on President Maduro

President Nicolas Maduro’s government accepted the opposition’s proposal to have the Vatican participate in talks to address Venezuela’s deepening political crisis.

“Both sides have accepted the Vatican joining this work,” Unasur Secretary-General Ernesto Samper said on state television after a meeting between Maduro a group of former heads of state seeking government-opposition talks.

Venezuela’s opposition is pushing for a referendum to oust Maduro as the economy teeters on the brink of collapse amid a looming constitutional crisis. Gross domestic product will contract 10 percent in 2016, according to the International Monetary Fund, with inflation accelerating to around 700 percent. Earlier this week the opposition-controlled Congress pledged to challenge the government-controlled Supreme Court’s rulings.

The opposition had proposed the Vatican’s participation as a condition for dialogue. The Vatican has not confirmed its participation, and the government and opposition have not yet agreed to sit down for mediated talks.

‘Coming Weeks’

With the Vatican’s participation agreed upon, the opposition may push forward with other previously proposed conditions: the inclusion of the Organization of American States; that the talks be held outside Venezuela; that the parties agree to a timeline for the referendum; all sides agree to respect Congress’s authority; and, that recently detained opposition activists be freed from government imprisonment.

“This agenda of meetings and good news will continue in the coming weeks,” Maduro said in remarks broadcast on state television from the steps of the presidential palace in Caracas. Maduro spoke after meeting with former heads of state Jose Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain, Martin Torrijos of Panama, Leonel Fernandez of Dominican Republic and Unasur’s Samper.

The Vatican’s foreign minister cancelled a visit to Venezuela that had been planned for May. Both the father of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, Leopoldo Lopez Gil, and his wife, Lilian Tintori, have greeted Pope Francis in their international tours seeking support for the freeing of political prisoners, another of the opposition’s conditions for talks.

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