The Vatican, December 1, 2016.
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:
- 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;
- 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;
- necessary measures must be taken to immediately restitute the National Assembly’s authority, as established in the Constitution;
- 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:
COMMUNIQUÉ FROM THE MEDIATORS OF NATIONAL DIALOGUE IN VENEZUELA
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