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Demonstrators confront police during protests in Venezuela

Pope Francis calls for peace after violent protests in Venezuela

The country's Catholic leaders urge dialogue and respect for the demonstrators' human rights

By Daniel Harkins

Pope Francis has called for peace in Venezuela as the country deals with violent protests that have resulted in a number of deaths.

Speaking at the end of his weekly general audience today, the Pope said he was ‘following with particular concern’ the events in the South American country, where anti-government protests have resulted in hundreds of injuries and at least 13 deaths, with a possible further two people killed on Monday.

“I sincerely hope that the violence and hostility will cease as soon as possible and that the whole Venezuelan people, beginning with political leaders and institutions, will endeavour to promote reconciliation through mutual forgiveness and a sincere dialogue, respectful of truth and justice, that is capable of dealing with concrete issues for the common good,” Pope Francis said.

“As I assure you of my constant prayer, especially for those who lost their lives in the fighting and for their families, I invite all believers to lift up prayers to God, through the maternal intercession of Our Lady of Coromoto, so that the country might quickly find peace and harmony.”

The civil unrest began at the start of February in the west of the oil-rich country. Protesters angry at food shortages, record inflation and high crime rates began protesting peacefully, before clashes with government forces led to escalating violence.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro claims the protests are being orchestrated by the US and has called for a ‘national conference for peace.’ Mr Maduro took charge in March of 2013 after the death of controversial former president Hugo Chávez, who led the country for 14 years, regularly clashing with the American government, who he accused of trying to overthrow his rule in a failed coup attempt.

Opposition leaders in Venezuela are calling for peaceful protest and a change of government ‘within the constitution.’

 

Pic: Demonstrators confront police during a protest against the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela on Saturday

—daniel@sconews.co.uk

 

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