Parolin’s Letter

Just because I can't be bothered to care about dialogue doesn't mean we can't publish the confidential letter that the Vatican sent Maduro. Translation by Javier Liendo.




The Vatican, December 1, 2016.


Dear Sir:

After the two meetings of the National Dialogue Table between the Government and the Opposition in Venezuela, held on October 23 and on November 11-12, 2016, in Caracas, in light of the results referenced in the document “Venezuela’s national government and Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) hold 2nd plenary meeting in the context of the national dialogue,” considering the impact these meetings have had on the Country’s population and in view of the third meeting scheduled for December 6, 2016, I feel I have the duty, in the name and by the will of the Holy Father Francis, to address You and share some observations I have the honor to express below. Additionally, I have presented these observations to Mr. Ernesto Samper Pizano, in his role as promoter of the dialogue initiative together with former presidents José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Martín Torrijos Espino and Leonel Fernández Reyna, and Mr. Jorge Rodríguez Gómez, who leads the Government Delegation at the National Dialogue Table.

I break but I do not bend, a popular saying goes. I bend to avoid breaking, the Christian wisdom suggests.

1) Dialogue is circumstantial to the human being, which was created by God in His image as a social being who develops and reaches perfection through interpersonal exchange. For this, people who seek dialogue must have a series of dispositions and psychological, spiritual and ethical requirements. In the mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, on January 24, 2014, Pope Francis said: “I break but I do not bend, a popular saying goes. I bend to avoid breaking, the Christian wisdom suggests. Two ways of understanding life; the first, through its hardness, is destined to raise walls of isolation between people, until it degenerates in hatred. The second leans towards raising bridges of understanding, even after conflict.” Among others, there are two conditions that make dialogue both possible and efficient and do not subject it to the risk of becoming a barren and frustrating exercise: a) the capacity to recognize each other as persons with inherent and inalienable dignity, provided with reason and freedom and the vocation to search for solutions in service of the common good; b) the genuine willingness to respect eventual agreements and their immediate application, without perversions or ulterior conditions. It is also true that an aggressive, violent and insincere language does not favor that minimum climate of mutual trust that is needed for the auspicious development of dialogue, which must be focused exclusively on the common good of the people. Only this perspective can allow the overcoming of existing differences regarding the opportunity for dialogue or its materialization, imposing on the parties the responsibility to remain in the Dialogue Table despite personal, political, partisan or ideological interests. Finally, regarding the contents and mutual concessions between the parties, it is relevant to emphasize that rights must be respect, not negotiated.

2) Regarding the participation of the Holy See in the National Dialogue Table between the Government and the Opposition in Venezuela, originally entrusted to S.E., Mgr. Paul Emil Tscherrig and later to S.E., Mgr. Claudio María Celli, with whom we are grateful for the generosity with which they have immediately taken care of such a difficult task and the competence they have shown in the process, it was evaluated at length and decided upon only after receiving the invitations made by the Venezuelan government as well as the political forces that constitute the Democratic Unity Roundtable, taking into account the willingness of the parties to consider eventual suggestions that would help the process to move forward in a lasting and auspicious manner.

Sensitive to the many voices raised in Venezuela and other places who insisted that it should take on a more active role in the Country’s painful situation, and aware of the many and serious risks to confront, the Holy See has entered negotiations with the sole intention of promoting the general well-being of Venezuelans and favoring a peaceful and democratic solution to the crisis. Additionally, I think it is essential to insist that we are not “mediators” but rather “facilitators” or “supporters”: this means that the interested parties are the ones responsible for negotiating, reaching agreements and adopting resolutions, although the Representative of the Holy See can and must make -and actually has made- proposals to introduce distinctions and nuances to relieve of unblock, suggest new paths or points to explore, remind common themes or push aside irrelevant matters, etc.

It is always the Holy See’s intent to work on the commitment it has assumed in close union with the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference, which has invited both parties to dialogue in multiple occassions.

The Holy See would appreciate if the nature of its presence in negotiations were to be clear for everyone, respected by all, promoted and clarified if necessary, even for the parties involved, to avoid wrong or convenient interpretations.

With pain and concern, I must emphasize that I am not encouraged by what has happened so far.

3) With pain and concern, I must emphasize that I am not encouraged by what has happened so far. I particularly speak of the fact that we are seeing a worrisome delay in the adoption of the necessary measures for the concrete application of agreements; additionally, we have seen how authorities issue statements or make decisions outside the work meetings, that do not favor understanding between the parties. In that context, the Holy See, in its role as guarantor of the seriousness and sincerity of the negotiations in which its participation was required, believes that the parties must take a substantial step forward if the National Dialogue is to develop auspiciously and efficiently. Therefore, respectfully but firmly, the Holy See demands that:

  1. Conditions must be met ahead of the December 6 meeting, for the urgent implementation of measures destined to solve the severe crisis in the supply of food and medicines affecting the people. The Venezuelan Church, along with its institutions, Caritas among them, is willing to lend all the help possible, through every means within its reach, to solve the situation of social emergency in the country;
  2. given the commitment taken on by the parties in the Joint Statement “Coexisting in Peace,” to make sure their “political differences are solved strictly through constitutional means, in a democratic, peaceful and electoral path” and the conviction to guarantee that “elections remain the democratic path for people to express their own will” (From Mgr. Celli’s greeting on November 11, 2016,) the parties must agree on an electoral schedule to allow Venezuelans to decide their future without delay;
  3. necessary measures must be taken to immediately restitute the National Assembly’s authority, as established in the Constitution;
  4. legal means must be applied to ensure that all detainees are released.

The Holy See expects concrete initiatives to be presented in the next meeting regarding points b), c) and d), to be applied as soon as possible.

As You know, the Holy Father is praying for the development of negotiations, aware of their complexity, and fervently wishes for the beloved Venezuelan people to overcome the severe and well-known difficulties that they are going through, leaving rivalries aside and avoiding any sort of violence.

I take the opportunity to express you my consideration and esteem, as well as to thank you in the Holy Father’s name and my own.

Pietro Card. Parolin

Secretary of State for His Holiness


Oh, and this yesterday’s communiqué:


We, the Representative of the Holy See, Mgr. Claudio María Celli; the Head of UNASUR, former president Ernesto Samper and the former presidents Leonel Fernández, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Martín Torrijos report that we have held meetings with delegations of the National Government and the MUD in the context of the ongoing National Dialogue process in Venezuela.

We congratulate the National Government and the MUD for restating their commitment with the National Dialogue process and their contribution to maintaining peace in Venezuela during talks. They also genuinely expressed their concerns to more efficiently materialize the agreements resulting from the Dialogue. We proposed the need to establish a verification mechanism to that effect.

We highlight that, even though there have been evident positive results, there are still pending matters to solve, as was expressed by representatives from each party. We believe that a new phase for the reactivation and sustainability of National Dialogue must start, and we have presented both parties with a Working Schedule. We have also requested the Public Powers not to approve or abstain from issuing any decisions to hinder their mutual relations or the dialogue process until January 13th, 2017.

We agreed that this time will be used to immediately work on the National Dialogue’s Technical Tables: i) Peace, respect for the rule of law and national sovereignty; ii) Truth, justice, Human Rights, reparation to victims and reconciliation; iii) Social-economic, and iv) Creating trust and an electoral schedule. To achieve this, the Mediators have proposed specific issues to advance and obtain the results Venezuelans are hoping for.

Caracas, December 6, 2016

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  1. No wonder Maduro was livid on reading it and DDC was inspired to deliver an smoldering rant against the author, Paroli using a polished yet very inequivocal language puts the blame for the dialogues lack of tangible results squarely on the regimes foot dragging and sabotaging ….. !! The communique is also a beaut calling for verification mechanisms , and an electoral schedule …, dont think the regime was expecting something quite so forward…..this is one mediator that they cant control …..!!

  2. “…this means that the interested parties are the ones responsible for negotiating, reaching agreements and adopting resolutions, although the Representative of the Holy See can and must make -and actually has made- proposals to introduce distinctions and nuances to relieve of unblock, suggest new paths or points to explore, remind common themes or push aside irrelevant matters, etc.”

    Indeed. In other words: mediating.

    I am not Catholic but I have some admiration for the Pope, and some admiration for some of the things the Church does. Truly. For a medieval organization exclusively run by men who purport to be celibate, it is capable to doing some pretty good things.

    But I cannot hold back on this. The Vatican can do the walk it back move, as per this lovely phrase (recognizable perhaps as the strange offspring of a lawyer, a publicist and a biblical scholar), but they are in this fully, and they wear the result of this process, like it or not. Their credibility, now significantly in doubt on the Venezuelan file, to say the least, is on the line.

    Not that looking like what they appear to look like will be of any comfort to the hungry, the imprisoned, the disenfranchised…their flock….

    Didn’t someone say the Truth will set you free? Why not speak it, out there, plainly? Just say it. It’s a revolutionary act, telling the truth, out there where people can hear it rather than in camera, as they say. More revolutionary than washing a thousand feet.

  3. Tremenda presión. Un sermón ridículo que parece escrito por un cura de pueblo y que es tan profesional como los discursos de D.Rodríguez. La verdad es que el gobierno tiene un mes más. No sé qué esperan qué haga el vaticano de todas maneras, aparte de aburrirnos con cartas soporíferas. No tiene medios oara forzar el cumplimiento de los acuerdos y no creo que a un Saibaba le moleste que lo excomulguen.Cuando lleguemos a enero, anunciarán otra reunión para febrero, y así, hasta que anuncien las elecciones regionales como un logro. Es interesante también cómo todo el mundo habla de un canal humanitario en vez de hablar de reformas económicas. Después terminan vendiendo bolsas de CLAP y llamándolo troll a uno. La verdad es que incluso si se cumplieran los acuerdos, ya fuimos derrotados en el área discursiva, lo cual nos mantendría en el mismo bucle de miseria. Terminaríamos hablando de boicot económico, de reparación a las víctimas de la guarimba, y políticos presos en vez de presos políticos. Lo que vemos es el resultado de años de errores, de haber escogido la estrategia equivocada, y de cederle al gobierno todo el terreno moral y discursivo. Pero lo más triste es que ni siquiera lo aceptan. No aceptan que lo que decidieron en el diciembre de 2013, después de perder las elecciones regionales, fue un error catastrófico, que LL y MCM tenían razón, y que no tienen ningún futuro, que están muertos políticamente, moralmente, y sólo tienen cierto protagonismo debido al carácter poco democrático de sus organizaciones y a las distorsiones del orden natural de las cosas que genera la dictadura. Es hora señores de enterrar a nuestros muertos.

  4. I asked this question when this pseudo-dialogue was announced:

    Why doesn’t a big leader loudly demand the parties to say before the dialogue how they are going to proceed to make it different than the absolute waste of time of the “dialogue” we got from April until June of 2014?

    I hardly read or heard anything about how we could yet again go to the same thing. We are like the proverbial dog that goes back to eat its own vomit over and over again.

    On Sunday I was talking to a Czech friend I knew since I was a child through…letters. I saw through her letters and those of several other Czech and Slovak teenagers how Communism fell in Czechoslovakia.

    One person here mentioned Havel didn’t have rhetorical skills. What I heard from this friend gives me the impression that in any case Havel had more of that than Chuo, Allup, Capriles and all the rest put together.
    And above all he was greatly respected among other things from his background.

    When I read and read and hear about what Poles and Czechs and Eastern Germans say about their
    leaders I get quite a picture.

    These guys were not politicians but these guys were better tacticians than anything we have seen so far.
    Perhaps it was because they had a better clue about history and wanted to see it as a progression. Perhaps it was because they were so untainted, unlike Allup.

    Even the union leader who was Walesa was a proven electrician who for years did real things and was not just doing “the union job” as we have that in the West. He was a proven worker. Havel and others were proven intellectuals.

    Now that I think of this: none of the people who played any role in the regime change in the part of Eastern Europe that clearly rose up – unlike Albania or Bulgaria- was politician or obscure profesor de pedagógico por menos de tres lustros like Chuao.

    The closest we have are people ABROAD like Gabriela Montero.

    In Venezuela, I think, as long as we have tainted people like Allup or people with little clue of anything like Chuao and Capriles at the front of the opposition and not doers I think we are not going to have much change.

  5. We are facing an assymmetrical war where all the guns and coercive weapons are one side of the struggle and on the other just the resolve and spirit of countless of people , who wish to have their lives restored to freedom and normalcy …….the latters weapon do not as yet include the use of massive violence (although we may get there yet ) but political and psychological weapons that erode the regimes credibility and internal cohesion taking advantage of the regimes many blatant mistakes and failures. Its been done before but there is no magic wand to make it happen at one go , instead there is a constant striving towards the goal you intend to reach !!

    No one strategy will by itself produce magical instant results because thats not possible in this kind of struggle , instead you go step by step occupying larger swathes of political space while keeping other options open …….., that means that you arent dissapointed when magical dramatic successes dont follow from the strategies you advance …….this letter from an universally recognized historic and moral entity carries a lot of weight in world opinion , it eventually sets the stage for other initiatives to be advanced as circumstances evolve to make them possible . You prepare the knock down blow by gradually weakening your enemy with a thousand blows to its credibility and already much destroyed popularity ………, on the way forward there are moments of frustration , of partial dissapointment but you keep the unity in your files intact , you retain your faith , you dont cannibalize the forces that make up the opposition movement ….unless of course your are an infiltrated troll or someone who loves wallowing in your own vitriolic negativism !!

    Carabobo was the battle that gave Venezuela its independence , but those who read history know that the battle was not won in the fields of Carabobo but as the result of a slow , lenghty , often frustrating effort at organizing and building up the Patriot Army to a state of preparedness and strenght that made its victory at Carabobo possible …….that it was preceded by many smaller battles and skirtmishes (quite a few of them lost or indecisive) that helped the patriot army grown in experience and force and the Loyalist army become increasingly weakened and vulnerable …..!!

    We can criticize the MUD but not to a stage where we are destroying our own will to continue the struggle against an enemy which is clearly weakening and growing more desperate as time passes ….lets take a page from history and understand maturely how things are achieved in a struggle with an entrenched vile enemy !!

    • Well, Venezuela’s so-called “independence” was greatly won by the forces of the Llaneros and not least by the thousands of English, Irish and a few continental mercenaries. I really do not think we can learn much from those times, no real independence was achieved and our economy went backwards probably for a century. This is seen as a religion in Venezuela and it is really pathological. We need to learn from what really has worked for good and better.

      I’d rather discuss how our society can start choosing people who have some solid principles and actual previous accomplishments to show they can lead and not take us to a new mess.

      • Kepler we are not talking about how independence failed to make us into a succesful country , we are talking about how Carabobo was won , a piece of military history ….and how our victory there was the result not just of a field battle but of Bolivar being able to gather a big number of trained batallions at the right time at the right place , something which strategically mutatis mutandi bears comparison to any struggle we may be engaged in today !! Yes we can learn a lot because they also had a lot of awkwards moments and lots of failures on the road of achieving independence and lots ot time when harsh fatuous voices wanted to do away with the leadership that brought us independence…..because their batting average wasnt 1000.

        As George Santayana famously said ‘those who refuse to learn from history are condemned to repeat it “

    • Honestly, I don`t understand a word you are saying. History teach us that sometimes great reforms are needed just to survive. History teach us about the urgency of change, about the dangers of stagnation, and about the tragic fate of blind decadent elites, that don’ t understand on time the dangers that are upon them. MUD’s time is due, and history shows that sometimes there is indeed an unstopable need of the “canibalization” of the obsolete political elites in order to move things forward. If they keep insisting on obstructing the natural course of events, they are in fact asking for their own destruction (maybe even literally), their own canibalization. That’s what happens to elites when they don’ t adapt and when they don’ t see their mistakes on time. I will not even comment about your comparation with the battle of Carabobo, because it is forced and stupid. I will only say that it was a battle won by people with courage, determination, and tremendous audacity, human qualities you will never find in Allup, Capriles, or Borges; with them it is only low cunning and words. About the last part of your comment, I am actually full of hope. I think everything will be possible after we are able to bring the MUD down. They are our last obstacle, the one thing that is holding us. MUD must collapse exactly at the same time the PSUV does, in order to create a new hope for the country; we need a leadership strong enough to spit on Chavez’ s grave, and to make the reforms that are necessary, and for that we need to be assertive and have an authentic moral reserve. With our current leadership we will never be able to do that, they just want to sell cheap bag of foods and profit on the corrupt system. After all, all people like Ocariz have accomplished in their careers, is thanks to this system. They are just weak, weak in the fundamental sense, meaning that they will simply never achieve anything and are too prone to corruption. Even if they were right about the strategy they are using, they would fail at it just because they are so damm weak as human beings; they would ruin everything, like they ruined the 6D’ s victory; that was a feat! So the only productive future for the MUD is to be the scapegoat for the true opposition that is to come. About the other comment, the one about the Church being all powerfull, it sounds too dan brownish to me.

      • I’m likewise confused by the comments I have been reading the last several days, the ones demanding slavish devotion to incompetent, milquetoast leaders.

        Neither a study of military history nor general history is going to teach you that you must stick with the same leaders throughout the course of a struggle.

        I can understand the argument that this regime is it’s own worst enemy. In truth, the opposition may not have to do a whole lot at this point to precipitate the collapse of the government. Unlike the modern Church, Mr. Market has actual power and has felled many governments.

        On the other hand, people power has also felled many governments, including in recent history. I see in many comments what amounts to base propaganda; that those who advocate taking to the streets are bloodthirsty, or alternatively that they think it is going to be clean and easy, or that they are trolls or secret government sympathizers. Why the straw-manning and ad hominem attacks?

      • There are people who never understand what they dont want to understand because they are locked into their own prejudices or follies or that simulate incomprehension because they are regime trolls bent on creating dissent and confusion within the opposition ….while simulating being part of it…!!

        There are a few things on which Im absolutely clear :

        1. I absolutely trust the MUD leaderships political honesty they all are committed to the task of toppling the atrocious regime that now governs us and restore our freedoms and lost prosperity . they have not been corrupted by the regime into betraying the trust of those that follow them .
        2. I totally trust the honesty of the Vatican efforts and their understanding of the Venezuelan situation and the need to restore a constitutional and political order that is consistent with the goals of the Venezuelan opposition and the interests of all Venezuelans,.
        3. They are not fools nor incompetents but people who must do battle in very difficult and uncertain circumstances , against a very unscrupulous and well entrenched enemy , which forces them to gamble on different strategies which results cannot be guaranteed to be always succesful !! They are fallible and will make mistakes but on the whole they have the capacity to rectify any mistakes and stake out positions from which to advance to a succesful attack on the regimes continuance in power.
        4. There were reasonable grounds to attempt the dialogue route , it was not an irrational move but one which although fraught with obstacles might yield some benefits the pursuit of which they could not easily abandon . Because it was a gamble (just as any other decision is going to be a gamble) there was always a prospect of total or partial failure which they assummed .
        5. People dont realize that even an overtly failed dialogue also yields benefits which are not so ostensible . the Vatican letter is one of them but there are others !!

        • Even Capriles speaks of corruption within the MUD. Even Francisco Toro considers the possibilty that they are either stupid or corrupt. Maybe Capriles doesn’ t mean it, maybe he is just saying what he thinks the people want to hear… You never know with him.
          You are asking people too much. You are not being reasonable, you are just a fanatic, a propagandist. Sadly, the MUD invests a lot of money and time on propaganda to defend losers instead of investing that time and money actually fighting the government. I only believe in real struggles. Since I don’t accept that they are honest., smart, and most importantly, since I don’t accept they have the will and the strength to rebel against a dictatorship , we will never agree. They don’ t even have the decency to admit their mistakes.Let people judge based on facts, not words.

  6. This was not a letter. It was a scourging and warning of what could be. For the first time, in I don’t know how long, the Vatican says we do not have unlimited patience. The Vatican will not be made a fool of in this matter. Implied there is an iron core at the center of this church which you do not dare to wake up on peril of your souls and existence, you have no idea of what can or is willing to be done when the church is embarrassed.
    Had I been the recipient of this “letter” I would have had myself placed under suicide watch.
    The Chair of St Peter is not to be trifled with.

  7. Elections. This is it. Now. Mobilize. Get on track. Return hope.

    Everything is based on gaining moment again. People got the momentum just back in November and the govt threw the “dialogue”. This dialogue turned off the people.

    Now MUD needs to pay back and help the country gain momentum again. Call for elections right now (remember the primary). Voting will mobilize the country as did signatures back in November. Voting to elect new leaderships, new members of the CNE (yes, why not?), voting to oust the whole TSJ, even better, to reshape a new constitution. This will mobilize people again. This will raise the monsters the govt wants to avoid: people in the streets claiming for elections. Fueled by hope.

    Ocariz called for a “new recoleccion de firmas” and “nadie le paró” because people are not stupid, people want hope, and hope comes with real chances.

    Elections: the real dialogue will turn on the people.

    Why not? people do not have anything else to lose. The whole country is fading.

    MUD: indeed some are blinded but the bright leadership needs to help the cause and push for real hope.

    Timing: it’s now or never. The opp already has some gobernaciones y alcaldias, including the most strategics: Miranda and alcaldia Mayor (and remember two thirds of the AN), so Regional elections is another stalling strategy and gives the govt more time and more legitimacy. The govt will NOT allow elections where its real power is a stake i. e. RR, Elecciones Generales, Constituyente and when the times comes Presidential.

    The govt only was worried when people were willing to take the streets like they were back in November.

    The govt knows. People know. Does the MUD know?

  8. Therefore, respectfully but firmly, the Holy See demands that:


    I can just see the Chavista’s blood boiling over outsiders making demands on their hegemony. I always saw the Pope’s envoys as passive observers but now it seems they are feeling played in a game of charades – and that dude did not like it. That’s some frank and blunt language once he got past the laborious intro. I’m pleasantly surprised.


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