Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro sent a letter to Pope Francis this week, calling for his help to end the violence in the country. Virtually at the same time, the pope’s Secretary of State was penning a letter to a group of former Latin American presidents, saying the only solution is to hold elections.
Both letters come a week after the leadership of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference traveled to Rome to talk to Pope Francis about the grave economic, political and social crisis in the country.
“It’s necessary to give peace a chance with no cheating, without being two-faced,” Maduro wrote in a letter sent to the Vatican through the papal representative in Venezuela.
Maduro’s letter was released by the Venezuelan News Agency. According to the text, the president wrote: “In your role as Vicar of Christ, I have full certainty that your active guidance can open a new stance of national dialogue.”
The letter was handed to Archbishop Aldo Giordano, the pope’s ambassador in Venezuela, on Tuesday. In the three-page text, Maduro speaks of “actions of vandalism” by the “forces of darkness” that “yearn for a military intervention by the United States.”
He claims that the opposition to his government is growing smaller each day and getting “more and more insane,” a minority that tries to “burn Venezuela to achieve their unconfessed and dark political ends.”
Though the crisis has been ongoing since 2015, the situation spiraled out of control in late March when Maduro announced a Constitutional Assembly. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have gone out to the streets on a daily basis to protest the measure.
The government has been repressing the peaceful manifestations through the military and para-military groups that have so far killed 70 people.
Maduro’s letter, dated June 13, was presented to Giordano on the same day that Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s top diplomat and former nuncio in Venezuela, was writing to six former presidents of Costa Rica, Uruguay, Panama, Colombia and Bolivia.
The presidents had recently written to the pope to express their concern over what is going on in Venezuela. Parolin said that Francis knew of the letter and its content, and that, to the best of his possibilities, he’s “trying to help find a solution amidst the grave difficulties the county is experiencing.”
The Holy See, the cardinal writes, believes that “serious and sincere negotiations among the parties, based on very clear conditions, beginning with the holding of the constitutionally scheduled elections, could solve the grave situation of Venezuela.”
According to Parolin, the conditions the Vatican, and Francis, expect, are very clear, and were expressed in a letter he sent, at the pope’s request, both to Maduro and the leaders of the opposition on Dec. 1.
In it, the prelate listed four preconditions for any dialogue: the creation of a humanitarian corridor, the recognition of the National Assembly, the release of the political prisoners, and resuming the electoral calendar.
The letter was shared on Twitter by Laura Chinchilla M, former president of Costa Rica:
— Laura Chinchilla M (@Laura_Ch) June 14, 2017
Elections for governors were supposed to be called last year, but as Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino told Crux ahead of the bishops’ meeting with Francis, Maduro refused to allow them because his party would likely lose.
According to Archbishop Diego Padrón, President of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, the pope told them in that meeting that he was very close to the Venezuelan people, and that he was fully confident in the local Catholic hierarchy.