Church in Venezuela can facilitate talks between government and opposition, says cardinal

Cardinal Porras Cardinal Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo of Merida, Venezuela takes possession of St. John the Evangelist Church in Rome, Italy on June 12, 2017. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Cardinal Baltazar Porras, archbishop of Mérida and apostolic administrator of Caracas, said that the Church in Venezuela can help facilitate talks between the government of President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition, led by national assemblyman Juan Guaidó, to overcome the serious crisis currently affecting the country.

"As always, our role does not even have to be a mediator, but a facilitator," Porras said in an interview with Unión Radio reported by the EFE news agency.

The cardinal explained that the talks should not focus on the country’s problems - which are already known - but on encouraging the political will to define "what we want and where we want to go."

"It can't simply be with half-measures that don’t solve the problem,” as the international community knows that “there must be a series of fundamental freedoms so sanctions can also be negotiated and there be access to so many things that we need," the archbishop explained.

The Venezuelan cardinal stressed the importance of recovering a "minimum of confidence" so there can be foreign investment in Venezuela, because at this time there is no guaranteed proper application of the law, "and logically who would come at their own risk".

In May, Guaidó said he is willing to negotiate with the Maduro government to reach a "national salvation accord" to overcome the serious social, political, economic and health crisis in Venezuela, which has led to millions of Venezuelans emigrating to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and other countries in search of a better future.

Guaidó stressed that Venezuela needs "free and fair" elections. Maduro responded to that proposal, saying he is ready to meet with "the entire opposition," but demanding that international sanctions be lifted before starting the talks.

The opposition leader also called for the release of political prisoners. However, the Maduro regime denies that there are any such prisoners. According to the socialist leader, the people being imprisoned have committed crimes.

On June 18, Guaidó announced that an opposition delegation began an international tour to discuss the lifting of sanctions if an accord is reached.

On June 22, Guaidó posted on Twitter a message entitled "Let's save Venezuela!" in which he reiterated his call for "free and fair" elections at all levels, beginning with the presidential elections, so there can be "democracy and life" in Venezuela and so that "no one dies of hunger" or is forced to "leave the country.”

So far no date has been set for the start of talks between the government and the opposition.

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a second term as president on Jan. 10, 2019, after winning a contested election in which opposition candidates were barred from running or were imprisoned.

Venezuela's bishops called his new term illegitimate, and Guaidó, head of the National Assembly at the time, declared himself interim president on Jan. 23, 2019. 

Guaidó was recognized as interim Venezuelan president by the United States, Canada, much of the European Union, and several Latin American nations. However, this had no practical effect as Maduro, backed by the military, remained firmly in control of the country.

Since Maduro succeeded Hugo Chávez as president of Venezuela in 2013, Venezuela has been marred by violence and social upheaval. Under the socialist government, the country has seen severe shortages of food and other necessities, as well as hyperinflation. In December 2020, United Nations agencies estimated that 5.4 million had left the country.

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