The Vatican has expressed interest in facilitating dialogue in deeply-polarized Venezuela, following a suggestion made last week by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
On Thursday, Maduro backed a recommendation made by the visiting UNASUR delegation last week that his government engage in mediated talks with the opposition through a “good faith witness.” The president suggested Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the former ambassador of the Holy See to the country.
It seems that Parolin is interested, although the Vatican is still holding back until a more concrete proposal is made. From the AP:
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Friday the Holy See and Parolin were “certainly willing and desirous to do whatever is possible for the good and serenity of the country.” He said Parolin, in particular, “knows and loves” Venezuela.
But he said the Vatican needed to have more information to understand “the expectations and the premise for undertaking a useful role that could achieve the desired outcome.” Such a study, he said, was underway.
Beyond the Vatican’s interest, however, there are questions about the Venezuelan opposition’s commitment to dialogue. While Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) Secretary General Ramon Guillermo Aveledo has voiced his thanks for the Vatican’s offer, the MUD is far from a monolithic coalition. There continues to be a wide gap between those of the coalition who, like the imprisoned Leopoldo Lopez and recently-impeached Maria Corina Machado, are calling for Maduro’s resignation, and those like Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, who advocate a more long-term moderate approach based on winning support of Venezuela’s lower classes.
Even though there is ample evidence to suggest that the so-called “street strategy” adopted by Lopez his allies has -- at least in the short term -- only served to rally the Chavista base around Maduro, this gap in rhetoric appears likely to continue. In a Saturday interview with El Pais, Machado stressed that dialogue should “lead to a democratic transition,” and repeated demands for the government to release imprisoned members of the opposition before talks could begin.
In addition to the MUD’s own internal divisions, the coalition does not necessarily represent those who have been participating in the recent wave of protests. The student movement has its own agenda and grievances, and its leaders will have to be taken into account in any legitimate dialogue.
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