Venezuela's government accepts Vatican mediation in crisis

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Nicolas Maduro has accepted a proposal by the opposition to ask the Vatican to facilitate dialogue with Venezuela's socialist government.

The Union of South American Nations' Secretary General Ernesto Samper met late Thursday with Maduro and afterward announced that he would ask Pope Francis to send a representative to Venezuela. Samper was in Caracas along with former Spanish President Jose Luiz Rodriguez Zapatero in an effort to revive a two-month-old attempt to bring the sides together to resolve the country's economic and political crisis.

The opposition has pushed for Francis' intervention but also conditions its support for dialogue on the release of people it considers political prisoners and a commitment by Maduro to hold a recall referendum this year.

Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Friday that "in the past, The Holy See has manifested its willingness, in case the basis is there for its contribution to the dialogue."

"However, at the moment, no formal communication has reached the Nunciature or the Secretariat of State spelling out the substance and details of such a request," the spokesman added.

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