VATICAN CALLS FOR SUSPENSION OF VENEZUELA’S CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
(Vatican Radio) The Vatican on Friday issued an urgent appeal to Venezuela’s leaders to suspend the new Constituent Assembly which, it says, is threatening the future of the South American nation.
The strongly worded communique, issued by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, says Pope Francis is following closely the situation in Venezuela, where President Nicolas Maduro is headed towards a showdown with the opposition, as he pushes ahead with the inauguration of his new Assembly.
The statement comes as the body’s 545 delegates were expected to be installed at the legislative palace in the capital, Caracas, close to the chamber where the opposition-controlled National Assembly meets.
Erosion of democracy
The new Constituent Assembly has been tasked with rewriting the country’s constitution and holds powers that override all other government branches.
Opposition leaders have denounced the erosion of democracy and vowed they will only be removed by force. Over a hundred and twenty-five people have already been killed in over three months of violent anti-government protests.
Respect rights enshrined in Constitution
The Vatican statement expresses “profound concern for the radicalisation and worsening of the crisis”, including the increase in deaths, injuries and arrests of protesters. It calls on all the country’s politicians, in particular, the government, to guarantee “full respect for human rights and basic freedoms, as well as for the existing Constitution”.
Suspend Constituent Assembly
It says initiatives such as the new Constituent Assembly should be “avoided or suspended” since they “foment a climate of tension and conflict” which “mortgages the future” of the country, rather than fostering reconciliation and peace.
The statement calls for a negotiated solution, along the lines already indicated in a previous letter from the Secretary of State on December 1st 2016. These solutions must take into account “the serious suffering of the people”, due to a lack of security, as well as the shortages of food and medicine.
Pray for Venezuela
Finally the statement calls on all members of Venezuelan society, in particular the security forces, to avoid violence or an excessive use of force. It says the pope assures all Venezuelans of his prayers and invites people across the globe to pray intensely for the country at this moment of crisis.
VATICAN SECRETARIAT OF STATE’S COMMUNIQUE ON VENEZUELA
Following is my translation of the communique from the Secretariat of State that was released in Spanish and Italian:
The Holy See once again expresses its profound concern for the radicalization and worsening of the crisis in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, with an increase in deaths, wounded people and detainees. The Holy Father, directly and through the Secretariat of State, is closely following the situation and its humanitarian, social, political economic – and even spiritual – implications, and assures his constant prayer for the Nation and all Venezuelans, while he invites the faithful of the entire world to pray intensely for this intention.
At the same tine, the Holy See asks all political players, in particular the government, to assure full respect for human rights and basic freedoms, as well as the current constitution; to avoid or suspend initiatives underway such as the new Constituent Assembly that, instead of favoring reconciliation and peace, foments a climate of tension and clashes and mortgages the future; to create conditions for a negotiated solution in line with the indications expressed in the letter from the Secretariat of State of December 1, 2016, bearing in mind the grave sufferings of the people given the difficulties in procuring food and medicine, and for the lack of security.
And lastly, the Holy See issues a heartfelt appeal to the entire society so that every form of violence be averted, and invites, in particular, the security forces to abstain from excessive and disproportionate use of force.
HOLY SEE OBSERVER TO UN ON VENEZUELA CRISIS
On June 21, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations, reiterated that the crisis in Venezuela must be answered with serious and sincere negotiations between the parties concerned.
In a statement to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States taking place in Cancun, Mexico, the archbishop said since the beginning of the crisis, the Pope, the Vatican Secretary of State and the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference have on several occasions called upon institutions and political forces, to listen to the voice of the people and defend the common good.
Referring to a letter by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin from December 1, 2016, the nuncio observed that the path to seeking a peaceful solution can be promoted through negotiation in a number of areas, such as a path that leads to free and transparent elections, and measures to provide humanitarian aid. In the 2016 letter, the archbishop added, the Secretary of State also urges measures to be taken involving the release of political prisoners.
Archbishop Auza notes that the recent government’s decision to convene a Constituent Assembly, instead of helping to solve problems, can complicate the situation and jeopardize the democratic future of the country. He concludes that, it is, however, appreciated that a group of countries in the region or, possibly, other continents chosen by both the government and the opposition, may negotiate as guarantors.