Venezuelan prelate urges release of political prisoners amid crisis

Venezuela’s leading prelate has urged the government to remain true to pledges made when entering cross party dialogue towards ending the country’s economic crisis.

As talks between representatives of President Nicolas Maduro and opposition figures continue, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas spoke publicly on issues of action agreed to by government but not yet fulfilled, fuelling doubts as to its commitment to the talks process.

“We must set the many political prisoners free,” Cardinal Savino insisted, referring to perhaps the most important issue for those in opposition as a gesture of goodwill from Mr Maduro, that of citizens “unjustly detained”. This, the prelate added, had been clearly signalled by Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin in a November letter when Venezuela first asked the Vatican to intervene in the Venezuelan crisis. 

“Cardinal Parolin, respectfully, indicated the conditions so that there is real dialogue,” Cardinal Savino recalled. “The release of political prisoners, the electoral timetable and respect for the National Assembly, among other things.”

Cardinal Savino went on to stress that the Church will continue to play its part in mediating the ongoing talks despite the current difficulties. The next date set for a fresh round of talks is January 13.

Meanwhile, the Venezuelan bishops’  Justice and Peace Commission has lamented the massacre of 12 men and women, whose bodies were found in a mass grave in Miranda state on November 28. The victims were last seen alive on October 15 when they were stopped by soldiers who were undertaking a military operation in the state at that time, somewhat ironically titled Operation Liberation and Protection of the People (OLP).

Calling on the government to “guarantee fundamental rights for all citizens”, the commission said:

“We denounce the way in which relevant operations of the OLP are carried out in the country in which state authorities have not fulfilled their obligations to prevent violations of human rights, guarantee personal freedom, due process and housebreaking. We also denounce the attitude of pride [by] the state, which refused and continues to refuse international law; the inefficiency of the state in its inescapable duty to control social violence.”