Pope Calls for Venezuelan Negotiated Solution to ViolenceBy
Francis says at mass that crisis is ‘exhausting the people’
Vatican-supported mediation talks stalled in December
Pope Francis appealed to Venezuela’s government and opposition to end violence that he said is “exhausting the people,” after earlier encouraging the government to seek a negotiated solution.
“I appeal to the government and all the components of the Venezuelan society so that every further form of violence is avoided, human rights are respected and negotiated solutions are sought to the humanitarian, social, political and economic crises, which are exhausting the people,” he said at mass in Vatican City, according to an Associated Press transcript.
The protests, in which 30 people have been killed, began in earnest after Venezuela’s highest court attempted to seize legislative powers from the opposition-controlled National Assembly. Criticism of President Nicolas Maduro’s government has mounted abroad and at home as the country continues to grapple with years of economic contraction, the world’s highest inflation and widespread shortages of food and medicine, despite possessing the world’s largest oil reserves.
Henrique Capriles, opposition leader and Miranda state governor, says a resolution isn’t as simple as the pope’s remarks made it sound.
“All Venezuelans want dialogue,” Capriles told reporters in comments that appeared on media outlet RCTV’s Twitter site. “But we aren’t willing to dialogue in a Zapatero way,” he said, referring to Spain’s former prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who has tried to facilitate dialogue between Maduro’s government and the opposition.
“It is important the Pope knows” that the government orchestrated the violence that has left hundreds injured and led to at least 1,400 arrests in addition to the people killed, he said.
Capriles’ response was prompted by the pope’s comments about Venezuela to reporters Saturday night while on a flight to the Vatican from Cairo, according to a transcript by the National Catholic Register. The pope said Venezuela’s opposition “is divided” and has shown resistance to dialogue, which Capriles refuted.
The Vatican sponsored talks between Maduro’s government and the opposition alliance in December. The negotiations stalled, prolonging the country’s political standoff.
Both Maduro and the opposition have called for marches on Monday, which is a holiday in Venezuela.
National Assembly President Julio Borges, at a news conference broadcast on his Twitter feed, said a Vatican-mediated dialog “has no possibility of progress” if seven demands made by the legislative body on Friday aren’t met.
Those include early presidential elections, the release of political prisoners, demobilization of paramilitary forces, and allowing the entry of medicines and food aid.
— With assistance by Fabiola Zerpa