For the past year we have been working on a project looking at the Catholic Church as a site of conflict and cooperation during Chavismo, especially during the Maduro era. Of course we’ve written on the blog about this over the years. Last week we published a piece in The Conversation, a publication in which academics address current events in their area of specialty.

Our emerging argument is that while the Catholic Church has considerable potential to alter a conflict and thereby, generate a breakthrough, its power is symbolic and can be somewhat fragile. In a raucous conflict like Venezuela’s with not only social and political interests, but significant economic, military and geopolitical interests, its power to constrain and cajole can be somewhat limited. It is probably most effective in getting negotiations going, or joining with other social and political actors seeking to mediate in a context. Here are a couple of sentences from our conclusion:

Our research confirms that the Church has a level of approval and moral authority in Venezuela that crosscuts political powers. That gives it the potential to alter a conflicted equilibrium. But this moral authority is fragile, and both the Venezuelan Church and the Vatican jealously guard it. Having been defied once by Maduro, the Pope may be disinclined to back another mediation that might fail.