VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis met Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro yesterday for the first time since Maduro won a narrow and disputed election victory to succeed late Socialist leader Hugo Chavez.
The men discussed poverty, the fight against organised crime and drug trafficking, and regional issues including a dispute between Venezuela and Colombia, a statement from the Vatican said.
Maduro, in Italy on the first stop of a visit to Europe, was Chavez’s chosen successor, but has been accused by opposition leader Henrique Capriles of stealing the election, held in April.
Last week, Venezuela’s election council confirmed the result, which gave Maduro victory by 1.5 percentage points.
The Argentine pope, the first from Latin America, has urged Venezuela’s opposing sides to address the post-election tensions by talking to each other.