The Archbishop of Merida has ruled out Vatican mediation of the Venezuelan crisis after president Nicolas Maduro made public a letter to Pope Francis requesting intervention.
“I think the circumstances say no. Why? Because it’s a call with a blank sheet of paper, but to talk about what, there’s no prior agenda,” Cardinal Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo of Merida told Radio Continental, an Argentine news station, Feb. 6.
The cardinal, who is also serving as apostolic administrator of the Caracas archdiocese, noted that on prior occasions when the Vatican participated as a facilitator of dialogue, what the Vatican got from Maduro’s government was a “mockery.”
“That’s what you really have to call the times the Vatican has been called in,” Cardinal Porras said. “Out of good will the pope wanted to send someone, but it all came to naught.”
Additionally, the intention of Maduro's government to seek “a cosmetic way out” makes Vatican mediation “non-viable,” he said.
During the in-flight press conference en route from Abu Dhabi to Rome Feb. 5, Pope Francis said that mediation “takes the will of both parties, it has to be both parties who ask for it.”
Opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has declared himself interim president of Venezuela, has not requested the Vatican’s mediation. Guaidó has been recognized as Venezuelan president by the US, Canada, much of the European Union, and several Latin American nations.
Cardinal Porras said that “it’s already routine for the government, when it feels under pressure, up to its neck in water, to call on its friends,” which include “countries that cannot be trusted at all in the cause for democracy … that is not the way to go.”
Among the nations supporting Maduro are China and Russia.
When asked if there is any differences or distancing between the Venezuelan bishops and the Holy See, the cardinal explained that “there is a full and complete unity of criteria and action, a permanent relationship between the Holy See and us … We have the total and complete support of the Holy Father.”
“What’s going on is the following: everyone has to fulfill their role. We are the first ones who have to take responsibility. We’ve told the government through the spokesman for the bishops’ conference that it’s fine that they want to address the Holy Father, but first they should go through us because there is total harmony (between us) and there’s nothing they’re going to do there (with the Vatican) that’s different.”
“Those of us who have the first option (for dialogue) are the ones who are going through the situation we’re suffering from,” Cardinal Porras noted.
The cardinal commented that with this letter to the pope, Maduro is just looking to “buy time,” especially when the Venezuelan people are taking to the streets seeking “a peaceful way out” from the grave crisis in the country.
“The every day situation on the social level is getting worse because we’re in a process like a toboggan careening downward due not only to the prices of food and medicine, but also the absence of respect for human rights,” he lamented.
Inflation in Venezuela in 2018 was estimated by the National Assembly at 1.3 million percent.
In the interview, Cardinal Porras mentioned the ineffectiveness of the Vatican's previous mediation with Maduro's government.
In August 2017 the Holy See urged Venezuela's government to refrain from its constitutional assembly and to respect the existing constitution. Maduro ignored this invitation and went ahead with the Constiuent Assembly, which has superseded the National Assembly, Venezuela's opposition-controlled legislature.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, was apostolic nuncio to Venezuela from 2009 until his October 2013 appointment to the secretariat.
On Feb. 4 the Venezuelan bishops' conference, the Confederation of Religious Men and Women of Venezuela, and the National Council of Laity issued a joint statement reiterating the call for free elections and to allow outside humanitarian aid to come into the country, which Caritas Venezuela has requested from the government for the last three years, as it does not have the resources to meet the people's need.
Cardinal Porras said Feb. 1 that the actions taken by Guaidó as interim president have given the people confidence, and called for “a period of transition leading to free elections with international oversight.”
Guaidó has arranged for the delivery of aid shipments to the country, which Maduro is refusing.
A tanker truck and a cargo container are currently blocking the Tienditas bridge which connects Cucuta, Colombia, to Urena, Venezuela.
The Venezuelan military placed the obstacles to prevent aid shipments entering the country, as Maduro has said it would be the beginning of a US-led invasion.
Caritas Venezuela has been asking for three years that humanitarian aid be allowed into 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 and hyperinflation, and millions have emigrated.
This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.