VATICAN CITY – The Vatican City expressed on Friday its concern on behalf of the Pope Francis over the crisis in Venezuela and called on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to scrap a government-backed parallel assembly that was created to alter the constitution.
In a statement, the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said that, rather than favoring peace and reconciliation, the establishment of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) aggravated the crisis in Venezuela.
The statement called on all political actors in Venezuela, particularly the government, to ensure that human rights and fundamental freedoms were respected.
It added that Pope Francis was following the situation closely.
Maduro held an election on Sunday to appoint members of the newly-created ANC, which was denounced by his critics as unconstitutional.
It was also widely dismissed as illegitimate by the international community, who saw it as a way for Maduro to bypass the legitimate parliament – the National Assembly – which is currently controlled by the right-wing opposition.
The country has been gripped by political violence for months as security forces loyal to the government face off with opposition in massive street protests that have claimed the lives of dozens.
Maduro has denounced the protests as an attempted coup d’état but his actions have fueled concerns in the opposition, who fear the president is trying to gain an authoritarian grip on the nation.