By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- The Pope’s special envoy to the Vatican-sponsored dialogue meetings between the embattled government of Nicolas Maduro and the opposition in Venezuela will no longer attend the meetings, the opposition reported Thursday.
Opposition spokesman Jesus Chuo Torrealba, secretary general of the MUD opposition roundtable, posted a letter from Monsignor Aldo Giordano, saying that the Papal envoy, Monsignor Claudio Maria Celli, will stop participating in the meetings.
“I wish to inform you that H.E. Mons. Claudio Maria Celli, the Pope’s Delegate to the Dialogue Roundtable in Venezuela, has renounced his visit to Venezuela for the next few days and will thus not participate in the possible meetings foreseen for these days”, Monsignor Giordano wrote to Torrealba, according to the posting. “The undersigned, H.E. Mons. Aldo Giordano, Apostolic Nuncio for Venezuela, has been designated as Delegate of the Holy See for these eventual encounters”, the later continues before ending with the petition: “May God bless our beloved country Venezuela!”
There have been only two such meetings since October of 2016, after Maduro’s decision to halt a recall process against him triggered a serious political crisis that compounded the present economic crisis.
A third meeting, scheduled for January 13th never took place and the opposition is now instead preparing for a big, nationwide march January 23rd.
"23 de Enero" is a celebrated date that marks the fall of the last military regime in 1958, protesting Maduro as illegitimate and asking for new Presidential elections.
Besides complicating the existing crises, hastily halting the recall against him caused Maduro’s popularity to violently tumble (between 10% to 18.5%, depending on the pollster) and also led to the opposition-dominated National Assembly to determine, days ago in a special vote, that Maduro had in fact abandoned the post of President and neglected the President’s constitutional duties.
Torrealba also published his response to the Giordano letter, in which he told the Monsignor MUD understands and accepts the Vatican’s decision not to send the special envoy again, a development he blamed on the Maduro government’s inobservance of the agreements reached during the two previous meetings.
“We equally understand today the reasons that the Holy See to not send, in the present circumstances, the Pope’s Delegate to Venezuela," wrote Torrealba to Monsignor Giordano. “Just as we are profoundly thankful for the presence of Mons. Celli in the diligences and meetings that took place between October 30th and December 6th of 2016.”
The demands made of the government by the opposition, and backed by the Vatican’s Secretary of State H. E. Mons. Pietro Cardinal Parolin in a letter to Maduro, “are still unfulfilled”. According to the Vatican and the Opposition delegates, the government had committed to allowing free elections and releasing all political prisoners.
"In diplomacy, absence can be a way of exercising presence," said Torrealba. Perhaps, "those who made the dialogue mechanism collapse" will reflect and stop their repression.