Two Venezuelans on a hunger strike came to Rome ahead of Pope Francis' scheduled meeting with their president, asking the Pope to promote human rights in a country ravaged by a social and economic crisis.

"We are here in front of the Vatican asking His Holiness Pope Francis, a sensitive Pope, a Latin American Pope who knows the reality of our country, asking him, making a very specific request regarding the sensitive topics of human rights in our country," Martin Paz told CNA June 5.

Paz, 29, is a councilman of the municipality San Cristobal in Tachira, Venezuela. He was accompanied by fellow councilman Jose Vicente Garcia.

The two traveled to Rome alongside Venezuelan Archbishop Robert Luckert ahead Pope Francis' scheduled June 7 meeting with the country's president, Nicolas Maduro.

Both Paz and Garcia began a hunger strike Friday, June 5, ahead of the Pope's meeting with Maduro calling the Pope to intercede in putting an end to human rights abuses in Venezuela, which include levels of violence that have reached a ghastly high, severe food and medicine shortages and the taking of political prisoners.

They positioned themselves outside the doors of the Holy See Press Office, which sits directly across from St. Peter's Square, and remained there for the five days of their strike, which ended when they finally met with a Vatican official.

Hunger strikes in Venezuela began May 25 when opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who was jailed last year due to his role in leading anti-government protests, most of them peaceful, began one himself.

In starting the strike, Lopez demanded the release of all of Venezuela's political prisoners, which García and Paz say are around 70 people, as well as an end to state persecution, repression and media censorship.

The Pope's meeting with Maduro was canceled, however, due to a doctor's note from the president saying he was forbidden to board a plane due to a cold and severe ear infection.

Archbishop Luckert, who had an audience with Pope Francis earlier last week, lamented in an article published on Venezuelan agency Union Radio that the meeting didn't take place.

He said Pope Francis "is very concerned about Venezuela" and is particularly worried about "the topic of insecurity, political prisoners and human rights."

García explained that he and Paz "have been fighting so that human rights are respected for Venezuelans."

These, he said, are the fundamental rights "established not only in our Magna Carta but also established in all the democratic letters of Latin America and of the world, where the right to dissent and the right to think differently, the right to freedom of expression, which today are being blatantly violated by the national government, should be respected."

After five days of their strike the two Venezuelans were received by Msgr. Carlos Mendiola, who is a member of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

In a June 11 communique prepared by the two after their meeting with Msgr. Mendiola, García and Paz expressed their joy that "Venezuela is not alone."

The two were told in their meeting that "Pope Francis is aware and concerned about the political and social situation in Venezuela and is doing what is possible for reconciliation, the release of the political prisoners and peace."

They noted how Msgr. Mendiola listened to them with "a lot of kindness." The priest assured them that "the Holy Father loves the Venezuelan people and is doing everything possible to help them."

García and Paz were asked to write a letter to the Pope, which would then be given to him through the appropriate Vatican channels. After their meeting, the two concluded their strike.

In their comments to CNA, García and Paz said that they were doing the strike for both their families back home, and for the future of Venezuela.

"Our children, our wives are there, our families are there, and we want a better future for our country…we are doing this not only for the future of our children and our families but for the future of all the children of Venezuela. It's worth it," Paz said.

García echoed his sentiments, saying that "we don't want our children to live what we are living there today… that you can't speak with clarity, that you can't speak because the government unfortunately what the government does is curtail their right to freedom of expression."

"You find that you can't go out of your house without knowing whether you will come back alive because of the theme of insecurity we are living day by day in our country," he said, and noted food and medicine shortages, as well as the fact the country's minimum wage doesn't cover their basic needs.

"It's a very critical situation that is a product of a government that has focused on looking for power only to trample the rights of Venezuelans."

In recent years Venezuela has become a country marred by violence and social and economic instability. Poor economic policies, including strict price controls, coupled with high inflation rates have resulted in a severe lack of basic necessities, such as toilet paper, milk, flour, diapers and basic medicines.

According to a June 1 report from Human Rights Watch the Venezuelan government "is failing to fulfill its core international obligation to ensure that basic medicines and medical supplies are available and accessible to all without discrimination," thus putting thousands of lives at risk.

In recent visits to Venezuela the organization found that simple medications to treat pain, asthma, hyper-tension, diabetes and heart disease were lacking, and that basic supplies such as syringes, gauze and needles were in short supply.

"This situation is attributable to the failure of the government to directly supply the public healthcare system as well as government policies that have impeded the acquisition and accessibility of medicines and supplies," the organization said in their report.

The Venezuelan government is known to be among the most corrupt in Latin America, and violent crime in the country has spiked since Maduro took office after former president Hugo Chavez died from cancer in 2013.

Demonstrations broke out in Venezuela in January 2014 after Monica Spear, a former Miss Venezuela, was murdered along with her ex-husband on a highway near Caracas when their car broke down. The couple's five-year-old daughter, who was with them, was shot in the leg.

Protests intensified after the attempted rape of a student shortly after Spear's death, and since then Maduro's government has jailed many peaceful protestors and political opponents.

An earlier Human Rights Watch report published May 5 found that Maduro's government has been using "unlawful force" in response to anti-government protests.

At times these means have included "severely beating unarmed protesters and shooting them at point blank range…Security forces also subjected detainees to severe physical and psychological abuse," and in at least 10 cases "torture."

Following visits to Venezuela and multiple investigations the organization found that "the nature and timing of many of the abuses – as well as the frequent use of political epithets by the abusers – suggests that their aim was not to enforce the law or disperse protests, but rather to punish people for their perceived political views."

Human Rights Watch also reported that the goal of the government abuse in many cases appears "to have been to prevent people from documenting the security force tactics or to punish those attempting to do so."

"The incidents involved both professional journalists and people who had been taking photographs or filming security force confrontations with protesters," the report found.

In his comments to Union Radio, Archbishop Lückert referred to Maduro's cancellation of his audience with Pope Francis due to a severe ear infection, saying that "this government has had a chronic ear infection for 15 years."

"They are blind and deaf, they don't want to see the problems and the reality of a country that is slipping out of their hands because of unleashed violence, delinquents armed with grenades and weapons of war…they are liars of office," he said.