ROME – As efforts to find a diplomatic solution to Venezuela’s crisis through dialogue continue, the Vatican has confirmed that the Holy See took part in the meetings in Sweden last week. Though the actual dates or the list of the participants continue to be unknown, the hosting government has confirmed that several “key international actors” attended.
The Vatican’s interim spokesman, Italian layman Alessandro Gisotti, confirmed the Holy See’s presence to several media outlets, saying that the Church had received the invitation by the Swedish government to take part in “a meeting that was held these days in Stockholm on the humanitarian emergency in Venezuela.”
Neither the Vatican nor the Swedish government have given further information on which countries participated in the dialogue efforts or the rank of the representatives. However, a spokesperson for the United Nations, Stephane Dujarric, did say that the international body wasn’t involved. According to an anonymous sources quoted by The Associated Press, the United States government wasn’t either.
“The Swedish Government has hosted a meeting in Stockholm with some key international actors in support of current efforts to urgently promote a peaceful, political and democratic solution to the crisis in Venezuela, and to alleviate the plight of the Venezuelan people,” the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated on Friday.
Opposition leader Juan Guaidó has channeled the frustrations of angry Venezuelans suffering from food shortages made worse by punishing U.S. oil sanctions but has been unable to weaken President Nicolás Maduro’s grip on power and sway the loyalty of the military.
Guaidó in brief comments during a tour of the western state of Mérida told a crowd that Venezuela’s crisis was being discussed in Stockholm on Thursday but offered no details.
“This meeting shows clearly that there’s consensus in the world for new presidential elections,” Guaidó said.
Speaking with reporters on the way back from a trip to United Arab Emirates, Pope Francis told reporters that the Vatican would be willing to mediate in Venezuela if both sides asked, adding that some preliminary steps had to be taken first, including dialogue efforts that could bring the sides closer to one another.
At the time, Francis also confirmed that Maduro had written a letter to him asking for help in the dialogue process but that he had not yet read it.
Two days later, on Feb. 7, he reportedly sent a letter to Maduro, addressing him as “Very excellent Sir” and not “president,” to say that while he’s in favor of a negotiated settlement to the country’s political crisis, previous conversations were halted because agreements were not respected.
Both parties to such talks, the pontiff reportedly insisted according to a leaked section of the letter published in Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, must prioritize the common good over partisan aims.
The pope also wrote that he’s not in favor of “any dialogue” but an effort that sees “the different parties in conflict put the common good above any other interest, and work for unity and peace.”
“Unfortunately every [attempt] was interrupted because what had been agreed in the meetings was not followed by concrete gestures to implement the agreements … And the words seemed to delegitimize the good intentions that had been put in writing,” the pope reportedly wrote.
Last month, representatives from the government of Maduro and the opposition had dialogue conversations in Oslo, under Norwegian mediation, to analyze the crisis in Venezuela.
According to the UN, an estimated 5,000 people fled Venezuela each day in 2018, bringing the total of people who’ve left the Latin American country to four million. According to the International Labor Organization, unemployment in Venezuela this year will be 44,3 percent, and the International Monetary Fund projects an inflation of 10,000,000 percent for this year, after last years’ record one of 929,789 percent.
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma
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