CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s government formally invited Vatican No 2 Cardinal Pietro Parolin yesterday to mediate talks with the opposition in hopes of stemming violence that has killed dozens in the nation’s worst unrest in a decade.
In a letter, President Nicolas Maduro’s government asked that Parolin, a former envoy to Venezuela who is now the Vatican’s secretary of state, be named a “good faith witness” to a dialogue agreed after two months of protests.
A Vatican spokesman confirmed the Roman Catholic Church’s willingness to mediate, but gave no details.
Venezuela’s opposition coalition had indicated that current Vatican envoy, Aldo Giordano, would be attending the first formal talks, which are to start today in Caracas. Both Vatican officials are Italian.
Parolin, who represented the Vatican in Venezuela from 2009 to 2013, is a frugal, publicity-shy career diplomat. The Vatican has helped mediate before in Latin America, including in a territorial dispute between Argentina and Chile in 1978 and a hostage standoff in Peru in 1996-1997.
Venezuela’s government and the Democratic Unity opposition coalition held a first preliminary meeting on Tuesday, agreeing to start a formal dialogue over issues ranging from crime and economic problems to the detention of dozens of protesters.