By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- Pope Francis sent a telegram to embattled Venezuelan head of state Nicolas Maduro Wednesday, as he flew over Venezuela for a state visit to neighboring Colombia, telling Maduro that the Pontiff was “praying that all in the nation (Venezuela) may promote paths of solidarity, justice and concord”, in the crisis-stricken nation.
The communication as published by Radio Vaticana:HIS EXCELLENCY NICOLÁS MADURO
PRESIDENT OF THE BOLIVARIAN REPUBLIC OF VENEZUELA
AS MY APOSTOLIC VISIT TO COLOMBIA TAKES ME OVER VENEZUELA, I SEND CORDIAL GREETINGS TO YOUR EXCELLENCY AND ALL THE PEOPLE OF VENEZUELA. PRAYING THAT ALL IN THE NATION MAY PROMOTE PATHS OF SOLIDARITY, JUSTICE AND CONCORD, I WILLINGLY INVOKE UPON ALL OF YOU GOD’S BLESSINGS OF PEACE.
International pressure on Maduro is certainly mounting: also on Wednesday, the President of the opposition-held legislative National Assembly, Julio Borges, held a landmark visit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel who publicly pledged her support to the cause of a democratic Venezuela and who didn’t rule out EU sanctions against the Maduro regime, which is already in the U.S. Treasury watchlist. National Assembly Vice President Freddy Guevara also met with Merkel.
A recent and severe cash shortage has just added itself to the long list of woes afflicting Venezuela, which include the world’s highest inflation rate (the root cause of the shortage, according to analysts) and a record murder rate which cost the lives of 29,000 Venezuelans in 2016.
Venezuela is still reeling from four months of violent anti-Maduro street protests, which cost the lives of 126 demonstrators and security forces (according to a U.N. report published this week) where NGOs put the death toll past 163 killed in protests and related events such as riots and looting.
Pope Francis sent a telegram to the heads of state and presidents of every country he flew over while on his way to Colombia. The Maduro telegram was the only one however in which the Pontiff made a special petition for “solidarity, justice and concord.”
Street protests practically ended after Maduro seated a Constituent Assembly that, according to the Venezuelan opposition and 40-plus countries, was imposed in a fraudulent manner. But upcoming state and city government elections, which the government is expected to lose, bring about the prospect of violent protests once again. The opposition is expected to hold primary elections in 19 states to choose its candidates this weekend.