Pope, Carter Call For Calm in Venezuela

Image: Opposition demonstrators lay flowers with the names of the victims of recent violence at the foot of national guards during a rally in Caracas
Opposition demonstrators lay flowers with the names of the victims of recent violence at the feet of National Guards during a rally in Caracas, Venezuela on Feb. 26, 2014. JORGE SILVA / Reuters

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/ Source: Associated Press

Pope Francis and former President Jimmy Carter called on leaders to step in to end the violence in Venezuela, which has already killed at least 13 people, making it the country’s worst conflict in a decade.

Carter is planning a trip and wants to meet with leaders from both sides. He asked the government to guarantee the right to peaceful protest and impartial justice for jailed protesters.

"It is difficult for elected officials from opposition parties to resolve differences when they feel threatened and persecuted," Carter wrote in a letter.

While the timing for Carter's April 29 trip to Venezuela has not been confirmed, he voiced his concern to the opposing sides in private letters to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Henrique Capriles.

The pope also expressed his deep concern over the conflict in front of thousands in St. Peter’s Square during his weekly address.

“I sincerely hope the violence and hostility ends as soon as possible, and that the Venezuelan people, beginning with the responsible politicians and institutions, act to foster national reconciliation through mutual forgiveness and sincere dialogue."

On Wednesday, female opposition supporters, wearing white, marched in silence from a western Caracas neighborhood to a National Guard military base, carrying photographs of victims of alleged brutality by the security forces.

Venezuela's state prosecutor said five members of Sebin, the country's national intelligence agency, had been detained over two deaths during protests on February 12. The statement did not name the men, but said they are suspected of crimes including homicide.

--Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.