Pope Francis Says Vatican May Help Mediate Venezuelan Crisis

Pope Francis says the Vatican would help resume negotiations to end the crisis in Venezuela if certain conditions are met.

Francis says the Vatican would help mediate talks if both sides submitted requests and if preliminary steps to end the crisis are taken first.

The pope acknowledged receiving a letter from President Nicolas Maduro, who said he sent the letter seeking “help in the process of facilitating and reinforcing dialogue.”

Francis, who spoke to reporters aboard his plane following his visit to Abu-Dhabi, said he had not yet read the letter, but would do so “and see what can be done” if both sides ask for help.  “We are willing,” he added.

The Vatican led one of several rounds of failed negotiations between Maduro and opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido.  Given the lack of success, the opposition is skeptical about future talks, believing Maduro has used them to buy time and suppress protests.

The pope’s comments came as key European countries joined the United States in recognizing Guaido as the country’s rightful interim president.

Canada and the Lima Group of Latin American nations, meanwhile, are ruling out the use of force in Venezuela.

The representatives meeting in Ottawa issued a joint statement Monday to “reiterate their support for a process of a peaceful transition through political and diplomatic means without the use of force.”

Before the Lima Group met, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $40 million in humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan people and condemned the Maduro government as a “dictatorship willing to use force and fear.”

Also Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. welcomes the decision by 16 European countries to recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s leader.

They include Britain, France, Germany, and Spain. The U.S. was among the first major powers to recognize Guaido last week.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said all options are on the table regarding Venezuela.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized Monday’s European declarations as “attempts to legitimize usurped power” and “interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs.”

The United Nations has declined to take sides in the crisis in Venezuela.

“The U.N. secretariat has decided not to be part of any of these groups in order to give credibility to our continued offer of good offices to the parties to be able at their request to help find a political solution,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters Monday.

The collapse in world energy prices, corruption and failed socialist policies have wrecked the Venezuelan economy.  Food, fuel, and many basic goods are in severely short supply and inflation is out of control.

Millions of Venezuelans have fled the country and millions more can be expected to go.

Maduro has shown little tolerance for anti-government protests and blames the United States for backing the opposition and plotting a coup.

Maduro was inaugurated for a second term last month after winning an election described as a sham.

As head of the opposition-led National Assembly, Guaido invoked what he says is his constitutional right to declare himself president until new elections are held.

VOA’s Margaret Besheer contributed to this report from the United Nations.


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