Pope Francis wants a peaceful solution to the crisis in Venezuela

Papa Venezuela
  • EFE

Panama maintains contacts with the president of the National Assembly and president in charge of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, as well as with the Chavista caucus led by Nicolás Maduro, which continues in the power of some organizations. This position is adopted by Panama because it understands that there must be a "peaceful" way out of the crisis in that country, said on Saturday the Panamanian head of State, Juan Carlos Varela.

"We have been in communication with the interim president, in charge, who was the president of the Congress, and we have maintained communication with those who are still in the de facto regime", Varela told to reporters during the events of the World Youth Day (WYD).

The position of Panama, explained President Varela, is that "there must be a peaceful solution, there must be no violence, and they must be reconciled as one people" in Venezuela. In that country "we must go against inflation, against social problems, politics cannot be to affect the people, politics is to serve the people", added the Panamanian president in his brief comment.

Panama is part of the Group of Lima, which on Wednesday expressed its support for Guiadó and supported the holding of elections "in the shortest time" in Venezuela.

The Group of Lima, created before the impossibility of adopting resolutions on Venezuela in the Organization of American States (OAS) for the blockade of the Caribbean countries, condemned the most recent acts of violence in the South American country and urged that "must be guaranteed the rule of law, the fundamental rights of the people and social peace as long as the transition of the Government takes place".

Last Wednesday, the vice president and Panamanian chancellor, Isabel De Saint Malo, said in her Twitter account that Panama "recognizes @jguaido as president in charge" of Venezuela, and that it supports "a process of democratic transition within the frame of dialogue and tolerance".

Guaidó has received overwhelming support from the majority of the Governments of the Americas, the OAS and the European Union, while the Government of Nicolás Maduro denounces an attempted coup d'état and foreign interventionism. The European block has not yet manifested as such, but individually by several of its nations.

Venezuela has been experiencing for years a severe political and economic crisis that has worsened over time and that translates into a lack of food and basic medicines in the country, which has resulted in the mass flight of Venezuelans, in one of the most significant migratory movements of the last decades in the region.

Pope Francis took advantage of a large community of young people in the frame of WYD in Panama to ask last Sunday to seek a just and peaceful solution to overcome the crisis in Venezuela, respecting human rights and wishing the good of all the inhabitants of the country.

The Pope made this appeal after praying the Angelus in the Home of the Good Samaritan of Panama, and where he learned of the swearing in of Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela.

"I have thought a lot about the Venezuelan people to whom I feel particularly united these days and in view of the grave situation that the country is going through, I ask the Lord to seek and achieve a just and peaceful solution to overcome the crisis while respecting human rights and wishing the good of all the inhabitants of the country", he said. The pope asked to pray to find the "protection of our lady of Coromoto, patroness of Venezuela".

The Vatican had so far limited itself to a brief statement in which it was noted that the Pope "was closely following the evolution of the situation" and prayed for the victims and for all Venezuelans and that the Holy See supports "all efforts that will save the population further suffering".

Guaidó, leader of the unicameral Parliament and self-proclaimed interim governor of Venezuela, has received a resounding support from the majority of the Governments of America, the OAS and the European Union, while Nicolás Maduro denounces an attempted coup d'état and foreign interventionism.

For its part, the United States threatened Nicolás Maduro last Sunday, with a "significant response" if it resorts to violence against the Venezuelan opposition or the US diplomatic staff in Caracas, and confirmed that it does not plan to close its embassy in the Venezuelan capital.

John Bolton, US President Donald Trump's national security adviser, hardened his speech to Maduro four days after the White House endorsed Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela, a bet of unpredictable consequences given the persistent political crisis in the country.

"Any (act of) violence and intimidation against US diplomatic personnel, the democratic leader of Venezuela, Juan Guiado (sic), or the National Assembly would represent a serious assault on legality and will be followed by a meaningful response", wrote the advisor of Trump on his Twitter account.

Bolton, one of the toughest figures regarding Venezuela in the White House, also denounced "Cuba's support" for Chavismo "and its control over the security of Maduro and the paramilitary forces".

In addition to Juan Carlos Varela, the government of Colombia led by Iván Duque, celebrated the "union" of the international community regarding the recognition as interim president of Venezuela of the opposition leader Juan Guaidó, according to the Panamanian Foreign Ministry.

The leaders, who met in the Panamanian capital on the last day of the World Youth Day (WYD) on Sunday, also highlighted "the importance of continuing to work together to achieve an early call for elections and the democratic transition in the South American country".

So far, Nicolás Maduro has the support of Cuba, Bolivia, Mexico, China and Russia, while several European countries have given him until the end of this week to call "free" elections.

Panama and, especially, Colombia have welcomed in recent years thousands of Venezuelan migrants who have fled the humanitarian crisis that affects the oil nation. Both countries are part of the so-called Group of Lima, a block of twelve American nations very critical of Maduro.

The UN estimates that there are 3.3 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees in Latin America, mainly in Colombia and Peru, and expects the trend to continue and that in December of this year the figure has risen above the 5.3 million people.

In an effort to reinforce this phenomenon of international support for the transition in Venezuela, the Secretary of State of the United States, Mike Pompeo, announced that he accepted Carlos Vecchio as Venezuela's charge d'affaires in Washington, after that member of the opposition was appointed for that position by Juan Guaidó, president in charge of the country.

"On January 25, the United States accepted the appointment, made by interim president Juan Guaidó, of Carlos Alfredo Vecchio as charge d'affaires of the Venezuelan Government in the United States", Pompeo said in a statement. "Mr. Vecchio will have authority over diplomatic matters in the United States on behalf of Venezuela", the US foreign minister added.

Vecchio, political coordinator of the Voluntad Popular party (VP), the same of Guaidó, has been in exile for more than four years due to the fact that he had an arrest order related to the 2014 protests in Venezuela, which led to violent acts.

His confirmation as head of the diplomatic mission of Guaidó, which the White House recognizes as the legitimate president of Venezuela, points to the formation of a parallel embassy in the US, after the Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, broke the diplomatic relations with Washington.

Maduro ordered the return to Caracas of personnel posted at consulates in the US, but the Venezuelan Defense attache in Washington, Colonel José Luis Silva Silva, announced his break with Chavism and his support for Guaidó.

Silva said in an interview with Efe that he still considers himself "the defense attache of Venezuela" and that he will respond to Guaidó's orders, and Vecchio later assured on Twitter that he had spoken with the colonel to tell him "that he can continue in the Venezuelan mission" in Washington, in his team.

Vecchio, one of the most experienced and representative leaders of Voluntad Popular, also revealed last Saturday on his Twitter account that he had met in Washington with the newly appointed special envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams.

In that meeting participated also Venezuelan former mayors Antonio Ledezma and David Smolansky, the "special representative" of Guaidó before the Organization of American States (OAS), Gustavo Tarre Briceño, and the militant of VP party Francisco Márquez, according to a photograph published by Ledezma on Twitter.

Also attended the meeting the Assistant Secretary of State of the USA for Latin America, Kimberly Breier, and spoke about the "consolidation of the government" of Guaidó, the "humanitarian emergency, sanctions to those responsible of the tragedy" and "creating funds with resources recovered (from) corruption", in the words of Ledezma.

After handing over his credentials, Vecchio also met with the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, David Hale, who "reaffirmed the great US support for the leadership in Venezuela of the interim president Guaidó", Pompeo said in his statement. "The United States will work with Vecchio and the rest of the diplomatic personnel designated by interim president Guaidó", Pompeo added.

In addition, Republican Senator Marco Rubio, very influential in the White House's policy towards Venezuela, assured that the US government has transferred control of several accounts of the Venezuelan State under US jurisdiction to whom it recognizes as the legitimate president of the country, Juan Guaidó.

"The United States has given control of bank accounts in the US of the Venezuelan Government and the Venezuelan Central Bank to the legitimate government of the interim president @jguaido", Rubio wrote in his Twitter account.

Rubio linked his message to an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal whose columnist said that "on Friday, the US gave Mr. Guaidó control of the Venezuelan Government's accounts at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and other banks insured by the US".

The government of US President Donald Trump did not immediately confirm Rubio's statement, but the White House had already advanced that measure was a possibility.

With the recognition of Guaidó, authorities who "legitimately take decisions regarding economic transactions between Venezuela and the United States change, which will have many consequences", said a White House official, who requested anonymity last Wednesday.

It is not clear if the measure would affect all the Venezuelan State accounts in the US, which in some cases have been subject to economic sanctions from Washington.

Rubio, who has been very involved in consultations with the White House on Venezuela, also predicted today that in the next few days there will be more details about the future of oil-related transactions between the US and the Caribbean country.

"Almost 75% of the cash, received by PDVSA (the Venezuelan state oil company) (...) comes through the crude oil sent to US refineries (...) What is logical is that continue buying but that the money that is owed is made available to the legitimate government" of Guaidó, Rubio told Univisión.

Source- information from EFE

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