On July 10, former President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights Pedro Nikken presented a joint statement on the situation in Venezuela alongside more than 60 other leading members of civil society, intellectuals, and media figures. In it, the statement’s signers call on the leadership of the government and opposition to come together and seek a common position in order to address the country’s political, economic, and social crisis. The statement also encourages the Vatican to mediate such a process, with a group of four mutually agreed upon countries to serve as guarantors.
A full translation of the statement is available below. In a separate El Universal interview, Nikken discusses the importance of international mediation of this process in greater detail, with particular emphasis on the Vatican.
Call for a National Agreement
The unprecedented political, economic, and social crisis from which Venezuela suffers will only get worse if the exercise of intelligence and patriotism of the country’s leadership does not serve to halt rising confrontation.
The below-signed do not intend to assert or renounce their points of view about the Venezuelan political process. But we do call attention to the fact that the current conflict is occurring during the greatest social and economic crisis in the last 100 years of our republican history, and that the same conflict finds us buried in a relentless struggle that has already cost us dozens of lives. The attack by armed groups on the Legislative Palace and on lawmakers, guests, and journalists that were gathered to celebrate Independence Day exemplifies how political violence grows day by day, in a spiral that bears dangerously upon the peace of the country. Fear and hate threaten to take root as sentiments that indefinitely infect our social fabric.
In order to attack the root of the rising political conflict in Venezuela, it is necessary to ensure that the behavior of all those involved is oriented toward ensuring the complete functioning of democratic institutions and of the rule of law. The basic rules of democracy involve the guarantee that the people can express themselves freely and that their will is respected, in order to ensure the stability of any government and the actions of those who find themselves in the opposition, which requires a reliable system to resolve disputes.
All this occurs in the midst of the great economic difficulties that the country is going through, which affect the entire population, and are expressed in the high cost of essential goods and the shortage and deterioration of public services. This situation results in scarcity and social unrest, for which a primary need exists to immediately address social, financial, and economic problems, particularly those related to food and medicine and the decline of the currency’s purchasing value.
The crisis that we are living in must be stopped before its outcome destroys essential components of human dignity, condemning us to either generalized political and social violence or to an oppressive government, if not both.
In the certainty of raising our voice to express a sentiment felt by the majority of the country, we call on all sectors that can contribute to address the current state of affairs to assume their responsibility. It is not a question of lowering flags or of giving up the struggle, but of addressing without delay the search for minimum understandings on disputed matters according to a mutually agreed upon agenda.
We know that this is not an easy task, but this country’s leaders must not be daunted by any skepticism upon confronting irrationality. It is their task, precisely, to create hope and to contribute to its fulfillment, counting on the ability of the people to defeat adversity and work peacefully towards their future. This does not mean naivety. The experience of failed negotiations must not be ignored. Instead it must be taken advantage of to rectify errors and adopt more efficient procedures.
It is necessary, above all, to remove obstacles that affect the credibility of the purpose of an agreement and the viability of what is agreed upon. Among those obstacles, the most notorious would be the creation of a National Constituent Assembly that would not be linked to agreements between the government and the opposition, and could assume the right to ignore and contradict them. To this end, in order for the call we make today to have useful collective results, President Nicolás Maduro has in his hands the initiative to suspend the electoral act scheduled for July 30th and thus open up an opportunity for a wider agreement among Venezuelans.
In that context, we propose that the Holy See continue its generous mediation in this process. We ask that once again it help us build trust, to bridge differences and promote agreements. At the same time, we require the utmost seriousness and good faith from critical stakeholders. We also suggest that four friendly countries, invited by mutual agreement, accompany and support this mediation. We request that, with complete respect for Venezuelan sovereignty, they act as guarantors, and help us verify that what is agreed upon is carried out and that they accompany the process until the end of this crisis. To ensure the efficacy and the success of that mediation and avoid repeating prior errors, we suggest that its functioning be clearly defined by formal rules, which protect the proposals discussed, and that the sole spokesperson of the process be reserved for a representative of the Holy See.
Thus, we urge the political leadership of the government, the political leadership of the opposition, the distinct elements that make up each of them, as well as every collective group that does not identify with either group, to immediately undertake a search for an agreement. Venezuela—not only the country of its people but rather that of its republican history as well—needs and demands with far greater urgency an agreement and peace than an outcome imposed upon it through violence.
Caracas, 10th of July, 2017
Francisco Alfaro Pareja
Marino Alvarado Betancourt
Juan Pablo Aveledo
Carlos Ayala Corao
José María Cadenas
María Gabriela Colmenares
José Miguel Cortázar
Paulina Gamus Gallegos
Egleé González Lobato
Jesús Rafael González
Carlos Raúl Hernández
Margarita López Maya
Leonardo Palacios Márquez
Luis Pérez Oramas
Elías Pino Iturrieta
Humberto Prado Sifontes
Bernardo Pulido Márquez
María Isabel Puerta
Rocío San Miguel
Ricardo Sucre Heredia