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Pope encourages Venezuelan crisis talks



April 11, 2014 - Pope Francis is urging Venezuelans on both sides to put aside their political differences and demonstrate the necessary courage to reach an agreement that avoids more bloodshed after weeks of violent protests. The Pope’s written message was read by Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Aldo Giordano, at the start of a much-anticipated meeting Thursday night between President Nicolas Maduro and key members of the opposition. The Argentine Pontiff said the polarization that besets Venezuela is inflicting deep pain on the country, complicating efforts to bring down crime and resolve economic problems that worry everyone regardless of their political views. “I'm aware of the restlessness and pain felt by so many people,'' Archbishop Giordano read the Pope's messasge. “I urge you not to get stuck in the conflict of the moment but open yourselves to one another to become true builders of peace.'' Thursday's talks, which were televised, are first major effort at reconciliation since anti-government protests began to roil Venezuelan cities in early February.
Key leaders of the opposition, including two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, agreed to sit down with Maduro after receiving assurances that the socialist government is willing to discuss divisive issues such as an amnesty for jailed government opponents and the creation of an independent truth commission to investigate who's to blame for at least 40 deaths tied to the unrest. With a thick tension hanging over the presidential palace, Maduro broke the ice by shaking hands with each member of the opposition including Capriles, who he regularly attacks in public and narrowly defeated in an April 2013 election following Hugo Chavez's death from cancer. Just bringing the two sides in the same room is a monumental task in a country polarized by 15 years of socialist rule. While opponents blame the government for destroying the oil-rich economy and stamping out dissent, Maduro claims radical opponents, backed by the U.S., are trying to repeat the destabilizing events that led to the 2002 coup that briefly removed Chavez from power. (Source: AP)




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