Vatican intervenes in Venezuela crisis - calls for government to 'respect human rights'

ReutersPresident Maduro

The Vatican has called for Venezuela's government to suspend its new legislative superbody and made a direct appeal to the security forces to avoid excessive force in dealing with opposition protests. Current initiatives including the constituent assembly "create a climate of tension and conflict and take the future for granted", the Holy See Secretariat of State said in a statement, calling for the changes to be prevented or suspended.

The spiritual home of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics also urged Venezuela's security forces to avoid "excessive and disproportionate use of force". More than 120 people have died in four months of opposition protests.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has defended the newly minted superbody, created as a result of a vote on Sunday, and which countries around the world have criticized as a bid to indefinitely extend his rule.

The Vatican statement called for a negotiated solution following the same guidelines the Vatican set out last year when it brokered talks between the government and the opposition which later broke down.

It also called on Venezuela to respect human rights and the country's current constitution.

Meanwhile, Brazil will propose suspending Venezuela from the regional Mercosur group until it returns to democracy, Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes said in a Twitter message on Friday, adding that the Brazilian government would not tolerate a neighboring "dictatorship."

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