VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis urged citizens of Paraguay and Venezuela to eschew all forms of violence in favor of political solutions to the crises currently engulfing those two South American countries.
Governments in Paraguay and Venezuela have met widespread condemnation and protest following measures to adjust current legislation, with demonstrators in both nations warning against attempted power-grabs.
The Pope was visiting Carpi, a northern Italian town that was struck by a major earthquake in 2012, when he took the occasion to say: “I am following the events in Venezuela and Paraguay closely.”
He continued: “I pray for those people, very dear to me, and urge everyone to reject, at all times, all violence in the pursuit of political solutions.”
The Argentine also made mention of the deadly mudslide that struck a south Colombian town on Saturday, claiming the lives of at least 234 people.
“I am deeply affected by the tragedy that struck Colombia, where a gigantic avalanche of mud caused by torrential rains has affected the city of Mocoa, causing numerous deaths and injuries,” said the pontiff.
He said he would pray for the victims and the victims’ families and expressed his gratitude to the search and rescue teams toiling away in the aftermath.
Paraguay caught international headlines over the weekend when an attempt to re-write a clause in the Constitution that would allow a president to run for a second term sparked fierce backlash and violent protests in which one activist was killed by a police officer’s rubber bullet.
In Venezuela, the Supreme Court was forced to backtrack on a ruling that would have stripped the opposition-controlled legislature of its remaining powers.