As hundreds of Chavista thugs stormed Venezuela’s National Assembly following the declaration of a state of dictatorship in the country, Pope Francis received said dictator, Nicolás Maduro, at the Vatican and announced a mediator role in “talks” between Maduro’s socialist regime and opposition legislators.
Maduro arrived Monday for a surprise meeting at the Vatican, following a tour of the Middle East in a desperate attempt to promote sales of Venezuelan oil. Despite being gifted with the world’s largest known oil reserves, Maduro’s government has managed to also secure Caracas the title of world’s most dangerous city, as well as its economy the world’s highest inflation rate. Venezuela is currently in a state of near-famine, where over 15 percent of the population must eat garbage to survive.
At the Vatican, the Pope “offered his personal contribution in favor of the institutional integrity of the nation and offered to take any step that would contribute to resolving open questions and generate greater trust between the parties,” according to a Vatican statement. Maduro reportedly agreed to start a “dialogue” with the opposition, beginning with a meeting scheduled for Sunday, October 30, on the island of Margarita.
While Maduro met with Pope Francis, the head of the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), legislator Jesús Torrealba met with Vatican envoy Monsignor Emil Paul Tscherrig and also agreed to the talks. “We’re embarking on a process of struggle that will be complex and difficult,” Torrealba said. In response to the deafening criticism Torrealba has begun to receive from opposition supporters who protest to the idea of a dialogue with the dictatorship, Torrealba said, “the situation is very delicate. Here, a mistake will not cost us votes, but lives.”
There is no reliable estimate of the number of lives lost during Maduro’s tenure to police violence, a lack of medical supplies at hospitals, or starvation. Instead, the opposition continues to highlight the most outrageous deaths caused by Maduro’s policies of implementing state violence against the opposition and rationing basic goods:
- 14-year-old Kluiverth Roa, killed by Venezuelan Bolivarian Guard police for shouting “stop the repression” in 2014
- 22-year-old Genesis Carmona, a beauty queen, shot dead protesting Maduro’s government in 2013
- 28-year-old Adriana Urquiola, shot to death near a protest in Miranda state. Urquiola was pregnant.
- Luis Manuel Diaz, a regional anti-socialist leader shot to death at a political rally
- An unnamed 16-year-old, beaten to death by the Bolivarian National Guard
- 17 infants in an Anzoátegui state hospital, killed by infections prompted by a possum infestation the hospital had no sanitation supplies to curb
The Vatican statement did not address the state violence Maduro has prompted during his tenure, just as the Vatican also did not address state violence in its mediator role between the United States and the communist government of Cuba. Following President Barack Obama’s 2014 announcement that the United States would make major economic and political concessions to the regime of dictator Raúl Castro, the Vatican revealed that Pope Francis had worked to make the deal possible.
Pope Francis subsequently visited Cuba, an event that resulted in hundreds of violent arrests of dissidents on the island, including one dissident beaten and arrested in Pope Francis’s presence. The pope denied having seen that arrest and, when asked about human rights abuses in Cuba, alleged that Europe has similar human rights struggles, without providing examples.
Maduro crushed a Constitutional attempt to remove him via recall vote on Sunday; his Electoral Commission claimed the signatures collected to put the presidency on the ballot again were invalid, without providing any evidence for that declaration. Torrealba and his MUD party responded with a Congressional declaration of a state of “coup d’etat,” which requires the Venezuelan military to ignore any commands from Maduro and renders his authority as president legally invalid until “a state of constitutionality is restored.”