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Pope Francis has joined international leaders including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in calling for peace in Venezuala, where anti-Government protests in the last two weeks have claimed at least 13 lives.
At the end of his weekly General Audience in St Peter's Square in Rome yesterday Pope Francis said: "I sincerely hope the violence and hostility ends as soon as possible, and that the Venezuelan people, beginning with the responsible politicians and institutions, act to foster national reconciliation through mutual forgiveness and sincere dialogue."
Meanwhile Cardinal Jorge Urosa has demanded that the Venezuelan Government deal with the deadly paramilitary groups interfering with peaceful demonstrations in the country.
Speaking last week the cardinal said that the police should have made arrests, but he has seen no sign of action. “I don’t understand why they're being allowed to act freely,” he said and pointed out that they appear not to be part of the security forces of the country. “These people must be arrested and disarmed,” he demanded.
The protesters, many of whom are students, are calling for the resignation of Nicolas Maduro, who inherited the presidency when Hugo Chavez died last year. They are angered by the country’s high crime rate and severe economic problems.
Cardinal Urosa emphasised that the Government should accept the blame for the unrest. “The great share of responsibility lies with those in power,” he said. “It is essential that the Government pays attention to the legitimate complaints being made.”
The Venezuelan bishops’ conference said this week that the Church was on standby to mediate if there were formal dialogue between the two sides.