WASHINGTON — After months of protests, violence and widespread chaos, the Socialist Venezuelan government has asked the Vatican for mediation to calm the conflict. This request came over a month after Pope Francis called for peace between the two sides.
Reuters reported that the Venezuelan government under Nicolas Maduro asked the Catholic Church to send Cardinal Pietro Parolin, an Italian, to help mediate talks between the opposition and the government.
The request was a formal written letter by President Nicolas Maduro, who asked for Parolin to be named as a “good faith witness.” Parolin had previously served as an envoy to Venezuela from the Vatican. A spokesman for the Vatican confirmed the Roman Catholic Church’s willingness to mediate, but did not give out any details.
The Venezuelan opposition, split between the imprisoned lawmaker Leopoldo Lopez and current Miranda provincial governor Henrique Capriles, said that the current Vatican envoy, Aldo Giordano, will be in attendance during the first round of formal talks in Caracas. Both Vatican officials are Italian nationals.
Capriles, who lost one of the closest elections in history (and one that was disputed by the opposition due to irregularities), told reporters:
“I will go to defend the truth…Debate doesn’t mean our people stop protesting. Quite the opposite. Peaceful protest must continue because the problems continue.”
The two sides agreed to meet in a preliminary round of talks last week to set up the current round of formal negotiations. The opposition continues to protest Maduro’s socialist economic model, which has led to widespread crime, rising inflation and shortage of basic products such as toilet paper and wine. They also accused the government’s police of excessive use of force against protesters, which the government did not deny.
Historically, the Vatican has mediated several conflicts in Latin America, such as the 1978 territorial dispute between Argentina and Chile and a hostage situation in Peru back in 1996.