Pope re­jects Maduro’s call

Won’t get in­volved un­less op­po­si­tion leader re­quests it

The Province - - NEWS | WORLD/CANADA -

Pope Fran­cis on Tues­day ac­knowl­edged re­ceiv­ing a re­quest from em­bat­tled Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Ni­cholas Maduro to help re­launch talks to end the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal cri­sis but ruled out any in­volve­ment un­less op­po­si­tion leader Juan Guaido re­quests it.

Fran­cis ac­knowl­edged that he hadn’t read Maduro’s let­ter, which he said ar­rived at the Vat­i­can via di­plo­matic pouch. He added, “We’ll see what can be done.”

He re­called that a pre­vi­ous Vat­i­can di­plo­matic ef­fort to fa­cil­i­tate talks be­tween Maduro and the op­po­si­tion “went up in smoke.” And he in­sisted on the ba­sic di­plo­matic re­quire­ment that two sides to any con­flict must jointly re­quest ex­ter­nal fa­cil­i­ta­tion or me­di­a­tion of ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“I’ll have a look at the let­ter, I’ll see what can be done. But the pre­lim­i­nary con­di­tions are that both sides ask for it,” he told re­porters, without cit­ing Guaido by name.

How­ever, Venezuela’s op­po­si­tion, led by Guaido, has made it clear that any of­fers of di­a­logue must start with ne­go­ti­at­ing the terms of Maduro’s exit.

Dozens of coun­tries, in­clud­ing the United States and most of the Eu­ro­pean Union, have rec­og­nized con­gres­sional leader Guaido as Venezuela’s in­terim pres­i­dent, ar­gu­ing that Maduro’s re-elec­tion was in­valid. But Maduro, too, has wide­spread in­ter­na­tional back­ing and holds prac­ti­cal con­trol over the cri­sis-wracked na­tion’s in­sti­tu­tions, in­clud­ing the mil­i­tary.

Maduro said in a state­ment that he sent the let­ter to Pope Fran­cis, ex­plain­ing that he’s deeply Chris­tian in both prayer and ac­tion.

“I ask the pope to put forth his best ef­fort, his will­ing­ness to help us move down a path of di­a­logue and hope­fully a pos­i­tive re­sponse,” Maduro said.

Fran­cis had been asked about whether he might fol­low in the foot­steps of St. John Paul II, who helped me­di­ate a bor­der cri­sis be­tween Ar­gentina and Chile that al­most brought the coun­tries to war in 1978.

The pope called John Paul’s work “coura­geous” but noted both sides re­quested in­ter­ven­tion and that there are small steps that can be taken be­fore ac­tual me­di­a­tion of a con­flict.

POPE FRAN­CIS ‘I’ll have a look at the let­ter’

MADURO Wants pa­pal help

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