Venezuela's new cardinal says the country's politicians 'can't throw in the towel'

There must be dialogue between Venezuela’s government and the opposition, the country’s newly named cardinal said yesterday.

Archbishop Baltazar Porras of Merida, who has long been critical of the socialist government, has begun talks with both sides in an attempt to bring them together to help solve Venezuela’s economic crisis. The opposition had requested the Vatican’s mediation, but the government has yet to agree to it.

Yesterday the opposition’s petition to hold a referendum to oust President Nicolas Maduro was suspended by the country’s electoral council. They alleged that their had been electoral fraud.

Speaking at a press conference in Caracas, Archbishop Porras said: “It’s a long, torturous, difficult road, but you can’t throw in the towel.” It is made more difficult by the opposition demanding that before any dialogue there be a recall referendum on the unpopular President Nicolas Maduro, of whom (along with his predecessor Hugo Chavez) Archbishop Porras has long been critical.

When his appointment was announced earlier this month, Archbishop Porras said: “This is a blessing not for me but for the country, which denotes the affection and love that Pope Francis has for us, because of the situation the country is going through, and this is a call for hope to overcome the crisis in our country.”

Pope Francis, who will elevate Archbishop Porras to cardinal in a consistory next month, has taken a special interest in Venezuela, and his appointment of Porras is seen not just as a spiritual but as a political move.

Inés San Martín, a Vatican analyst for CruxNow, wrote this week: “It’s not far-fetched to say Porras’s view on the country’s ongoing crisis has the pontiff’s seal of approval.”