Second attempt

Second attempt

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has floated Pope Francis as a possible mediator in the domestic political crisis. It would be the second attempt of the Vatican.

In the power struggle in Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has asked Pope Francis to mediate. He has asked for help in a process aimed at facilitating dialogue, the socialist president told the Sky 24 channel (Monday local time). If the Pope accepts the request, it would be the Vatican's second attempt to mediate between the two camps.

"On the side of humanity and help"

The first attempt had failed after Maduro dissolved the freely elected parliament in the summer of 2018 and replaced it with a catch-all assembly of supporters loyal to his party line. Church representatives accused him at the time of not having kept promises made.

Meanwhile, preparations for aid shipments from Colombia to Venezuela are in full swing. Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has proclaimed himself interim president, demanded that the military side with "humanity and aid".

The Venezuelan Bishops' Conference also called on the Maduro government in a press conference Monday to ie the necessary permits for aid deliveries. The secretary general of the bishops' conference, Auxiliary Bishop Jose Trinidad Fernandez of Caracas, affirmed that the Church is on the side of those who need help most.

Pope's reserved statement

Argentina's bishops, meanwhile, backed Pope Francis' neutral stance on Venezuela's power struggle. It is not the way of the Holy See to concretely condemn this government or any other, said the president of the Argentine Bishops' Conference, Bishop Oscar Ojea of San Isidro, in a video message. Vatican diplomacy aimed at being available for dialogue, he said. Many were not interested in a differentiated message from the pope anyway, Ojea continued; but only in whether Francis was condemning Maduro or not.

In light of Maduro's request, the Pope's reserved statement now appears in a new light. During and after World Youth Day in Panama in January, the pope had expressed restraint on the power struggle in Venezuela. "I suffer from this," he told journalists traveling with him on the flight back to Rome from Panama. "I am afraid of bloodshed." The Venezuelan people are suffering. This is why he is asking all parties to find a just and peaceful solution.

Francis said he himself did not want to take sides in the ongoing conflict. "It would be a pastoral negligence that could cause damage." In Venezuela, this attitude of the Pope met with a mixed response. While President Maduro was praising them, popular cartoonist Fernando Pinillo published a drawing showing Francis wearing a communist armband and blindfolded while security forces shoot a demonstrator.

International prere crucial

Guaido again solicited the backing of Venezuelan military leaders. He expected them to defend the capture, he said in an interview with Venezuelan broadcaster Antena 3. Again, he referred to the amnesty law passed by Parliament, which guarantees impunity for all military personnel who work to restore constitutional rights. He called international prere on Maduro crucial to a transition of power.

Maduro said in the TV interview broadcast Sunday evening on the La Sexta channel that there would be 50.000 armed popular units formed in Venezuela to defend homeland. "In the event of a local, regional or national conflict, the people know where they belong," he explained. So far, the military is Maduro's biggest power player. The top of the armed forces had backed him unreservedly. From the lower ranks, however, Guaido is receiving increasing support. Also on Monday, other military officials as well as a police chief from Trujillo state announced their support for the opposition, as the daily El Nacional reported.

Parliamentary Speaker Guaido had been in a political power struggle with Maduro on 23. January proclaimed interim head of state. The U.S., Canada and many Latin American countries have already recognized him. Maduro had allowed himself to be sworn in at the beginning of January for a second term, which will last until 2025, despite fierce protests. The elections of 20. May 2018 elections were not democratic, international community believes. The parliament, in which the opposition has held a majority since 2016, was ousted by Maduro.

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