July 22, 2021

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday called a letter sent by the Vatican’s foreign minister to local businesses, which urged Caracas politicians to take seriously negotiations to resolve the country’s crisis, a “compendium of hatred.”

The letter from the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, was read aloud by a Catholic Church representative on Tuesday evening at the annual assembly of Fedecamaras, the largest business federation in the heavily Roman Catholic South American country.

A top government official attended that meeting for the first time in years in a sign of easing tensions between business leaders and the socialist government, as Maduro opens the economy in an effort to end a years-long recession in the once-prosperous OPEC nation.

“When everyone is talking about producing and overcoming the economic crisis, an unknown priest…read a letter from Pietro Parolin, a letter that was a compendium of hatred, of venom,” Maduro said in a state television appearance on Wednesday, accusing Parolin of meddling in Venezuela’s affairs.

The Vatican did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Maduro’s comments came as Venezuela’s government and opposition – which labels Maduro a dictator who rigged his 2018 election and has largely boycotted the past two elections – prepare for negotiations to attempt to establish mutually agreeable electoral conditions.

Parolin’s letter said that a solution to Venezuela’s crisis would only come “if Venezuelans, and especially those who have some political responsibility, are willing to sit down and negotiate in a serious way about concrete problems and find solutions to Venezuelans’ true needs.”

Venezuelan Cardinal Baltazar Porras last month said the Church was willing to facilitate dialogue between the two sides.

(Reporting by Mayela Armas; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Leslie Adler)