Venezuela’s Maduro calls Vatican letter a ‘compendium of hatred’

Venezuela will send further shipments of oxygen to help neighboring Brazil treat COVID-19 patients, President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday, after sending a convoy of oxygen-filled trucks to the Amazonian city of Manaus last month. Maduro, a socialist, has a tense relationship with Brazilian right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, who said in January the Venezuelan oxygen was welcome but that Maduro should focus on helping Venezuelans. ADVERTISEMENT Maduro said on Tuesday that three trucks were currently loading with oxygen produced by Venezuelan state-owned steel company Sidor. Two would be destined for Brazil’s northern Amazonas state, while one would go to Roraima state, he said. “Anything is possible when there is solidarity, brotherhood, peace and love between peoples, and in this case there is, between the people of Brazil and Venezuela,” Maduro said. He added that further shipments could arrive “every now and then” or weekly, according to Brazil’s needs. ADVERTISEMENT The outbreak in Brazil’s Amazonian region has been particularly severe. Doctors at overrun hospitals in the state capital, Manaus, have said patients have had to share cylinders and that some have died because of lack of oxygen. Brazil has reported some 9.2 million confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, the third-highest toll in the world. Some 225,099 Brazilians have died of the disease, the most of any country other than the United States.

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.

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