Vatican calls for dialogue in Venezuela

2013-04-21 22:09
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Caracas - The Catholic Church weighed in Sunday on Venezuela's political crisis, with Pope Francis expressing deep concern and calling for dialogue in the wake of a disputed presidential election.

The head of the Venezuela church meanwhile offered to help arrange talks between President Nicolas Maduro, the political heir of the late leftist leader Hugo Chavez, and opposition leader Henrique Capriles.

"It's necessary to resolve this crisis. The tone has to be lowered," Cardinal Jorge Urosa said in an interview with Ultimas Noticias, a daily newspaper.

Two days after Maduro's inauguration as president, the government and the opposition remained locked in a tense confrontation over the outcome of the snap election to replace Chavez, who died on 5 March after 14 years in power.

The National Electoral Council declared Maduro the winner with an 1.8% margin, setting off opposition demands for a recount and furious street protests that the government said left eight people dead across the country.

An expanded audit of the vote is to begin within days, but the vice president of the election council said on Saturday it could not overturn Maduro's victory.

Pope Francis, who hails from Argentina and is the first pontiff from Latin America, said in a statement from the Vatican on Sunday that he was following events in Venezuela "with great concern.

"I invite the dear Venezuelan people, and in particular its institutional and political leaders, to establish a dialogue based on the truth, mutual recognition in the search for the common good and out of love for the nation," he said.

Urosa noted that the Venezuelan bishops had issued a statement after the 14 April election offering the church's good offices "to procure a dialogue among the parties who are still in conflict."

The Catholic Church has often played a role as mediator in political conflicts in Latin America, notably in communist-ruled Cuba in recent years, but it has been largely sidelined in Venezuela under Chavez, a leftwing populist who often butted heads with the bishops.

Read more on:    nicolas maduro  |  venezuela

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