CARACAS -- Venezuelan “chavista” lawmaker Diosdado Cabello verbally attacked the Vatican and the Catholic Church on Monday, a development that does not bode well for the ongoing Vatican-sponsored dialogue efforts between the government of embattled President Nicolas Maduro and the opposition.
During a televised event, Cabello blasted Vatican special envoy to Venezuela and Vatican Secretary of State, Monsignor Pietro Parolin, for reportedly sending a letter to the government of Maduro.
The letter has not been made public, but the MUD opposition coalition confirmed that the Vatican had sent a letter to Maduro – and to Maduro’s representatives in the dialogue as well as to the MUD and its representatives at the table -- asking that he allows humanitarian aid (food and medicines) to enter Venezuela unimpeded, the release of political prisoners, that the government commits to -- and gives a firm schedule for -- upcoming elections and, finally, asks Maduro to restore the Constitutional attributes of the opposition-held National Assembly, currently negated by the executive-controlled Supreme Court.
“Respect us! We don’t mess in the Church’s business! We don’t mess with the Fathers accused of pedophilia”, said a red-faced Cabello, shouting into a microphone and waging his finger, sweat running down his face and wiping it with a red handkerchief.
Parolin’s position is “militant with the squalor (as the government refers to the opposition, “la escualidez”). He is a militant. He attended meetings of the right wing,” Cabello said.
Monsignor Parolin was the Pope’s Nuncio in Venezuela in 2013 (the Ambassador to Caracas of the Holy See) and his experience in the country is extensive. In 2014, Maduro himself invited Monsignor Parolin to mediate in a first round of peace talks during the most violent street riots in Venezuelan history, which lasted for months and left 43 dead, officially. The protests abated (only to begin anew in 2016 but not with the same intentisty).
Thousands were arrested and although the vast majority was released, Venezuela has since 2014 carried the stigma of having more political prisoners than Cuba, according to Amnesty International. Maduro currently has more than 100 political prisoners, according to Venezuelan NGO’s.
A SOLDIER OF CHAVEZ
Cabello was one of the officers that took part in the failed coup attempt of 1992, led by the then unknown Hugo Chavez. Many were surprised when Chavez appointed Maduro as his successor, instead of Cabello, the man who had fought with him and had been imprisoned alongside him for two years after the coup.
However, even if he was dissed by Chavez in the succession, on Monday Cabello took the mantle of defending the Maduro administration, blasting Parolin, saying the Monsignor is a militant in Venezuela’s opposition, questioning the Vatican’s role in the talks and daring the opposition to leave the table. A meeting is scheduled for tomorrow.
Cabello stressed that the letter, which Maduro had lambasted over the weekend, was not sent by the Pope himself but by the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Monsignor Parolin. “The Pope hasn’t sent any letter! He who sent the letter was this mister Pietro Parolin, who is disrespectful, irresponsible. He thinks that from the Vatican they can direct Venezuela. No, mister Parolin, you are wrong!”, shouted Cabello.
"The Vatican is not a mediator. It's just a facilitator, an invited guest. It has no voice or vote and has no right to show bias," Cabello concluded.
What really is news here is that Cabello, a mere lawmaker, is given equal time and consideration than the President, further evidence of the former’s surging popularity, at least amongst “chavista” ranks and media outlets. A recent poll by Datanalisis stated that Cabello was the fourth most popular politician in Venezuela, surpassing Maduro.
LETTER FROM THE VATICAN
On Monday, the executive secretary of Democratic Unity Table (MUD by its Spanish initials), Jesus "Chuo" Torrealba confirmed the existence of a letter sent by the Vatican to President Nicolas Maduro.
He said it was confidential but that it requires compliance with the agreements that of the DIALOGUE and, as reported, belies government spokesmen versions of the negotiations in which they deny any commitments to release political prisoners and hold new elections.
Torrealba said the letter was sent to Maduro at the behest of Pope Francisco, with a copy to the former presidents who are facilitators, Jorge Rodriguez, as coordinator of the government's delegation in the negotiations and Torrealba, as a representative of the Opposition.
"The Vatican asked that the letter is confidential," Torrealba said. "What I do is confirm that this letter exists, but I refrain from talking about its contents until the Vatican does so."
"What I can say -- and that is to the indignation of Mr. Maduro Moros -- is that the content of the letter belies the government's position," Torrealba said, referring specifically to Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez who said several days ago that freedom of political prisoners was "imagination" of the opposition and not in the DIALOGUE.
Torrealba said the letter also debunks statements by Elias Jaua and Jorge Rodriguez, who both denied that the issue of elections was under discussion in the negotiations.
"It is not the opposition who says it. It is the most qualified dialogue facilitators, who sent a communication, which belies an absolutely clear, strict way, these official claims," Torrealba said. "This is very important because it reveals the one handed ineptitude and fallacious, deceitful government condition," Torrealba said.