Negotiations between government and opposition groups leading to free and fair elections are needed to put an end to violence in Venezuela and bring relief to a suffering people, a Vatican official has said.

In a letter to six former Latin American heads of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, said the Holy See continued to follow Pope Francis’s directives and was “trying to help find a solution to the current serious difficulties”.

“The Holy See continues to consider that a serious and sincere negotiation between the parties, based on very clear conditions, beginning with the celebration of constitutionally scheduled elections, can solve the serious situation in Venezuela and the suffering to which the population is subjected,” the cardinal said.

The Vatican did not release the cardinal’s letter, but it was posted on the blog Il Sismografo. The letter does not signal a change in the Vatican’s approach.

Cardinal Parolin said last October that the government had to call fresh elections.

Earlier this month Pope Francis met the leadership of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference, which requested the meeting as the country’s political and economic crisis turned increasingly violent. Since April, anti-government protests have led to the deaths of about 70 people.

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