“We firmly support the efforts of Latin America’s organisations to open a constructive dialogue between government and opposition. The present situation in Venezuela cannot continue”. These were the words of Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, announcing that Under-Secretary Mario Giro is in Caracas today, 3 April 2014, to examine events closely and meet the Italian community. Minister Mogherini pointed out that she recently met the Venezuelan Ambassador in Rome “to convey our concern not just for the Italian community but for the course events are taking”.
The nation of Simon Bolivar is one of the Latin American countries with the largest presence of Italians, who have made a notable contribution over the years to their adopted land. The main wave of Italian immigration was in the 1950s, since which time Italians have established a sizeable community throughout the country. They are active in numerous sectors of the economy: plastics, machinery, furniture, footwear and engineering. All sectors where Italian immigrants and their children and grandchildren have made significant investments, both financial and in terms of sheer hard work. Venezuela’s catering sector also has an important Italian presence, from small pizzerias to fine-dining restaurants.
Venezuela’s business community includes important entrepreneurs of Italian origin. A census dating from 1881 shows that the country’s total population of 2 million included 3,237 Italians at that time. Today, the Italian community in Greater Caracas numbers about 120,000, while Maracaibo has 20,000 inhabitants of Italian origin.
The country is currently undergoing a serious economic crisis. Inflation has reached the astronomical level of 56.2%, GDP growth has declined and oil production has reached the lowest level of the last ten years.
Under-Secretary Giro in Caracas
Under-Secretary Mario Giro is in Caracas today, 3 April 2014, to prepare the meeting of the Italy-Venezuela bi-national committee. He will meet members of the Italian community to gain more information on the security situation. The Under-Secretary will also have talks with Venezuela’s authorities and political forces to support the dialogue being taken forward in the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) framework.
“We’re concerned about the unrest and violence”, declared Giro.
“In this situation, protecting our community is a priority objective for Italy, which will do everything in its power to foster dialogue between the Venezuelan government and the opposition. Indeed, dialogue was the course of action that President Napolitano recommended to President Maduro in June 2013 and is in line with the position of EU High Representative Catherine Ashton. We have noted with interest the international mediation proposal backed by the Vatican Secretary of State, Parolin”.
European Union’s concerns over violence and unrest
The statement issued on behalf of the High Representative says that she “supports regional efforts to bring all Venezuelan parties to the table so as to put an immediate stop to violence and unrest”. Catherine Ashton “condemns intolerance and the use of violence by all sides; and is worried by the reports of alleged excessive and disproportionate use of force by State security agents”.
The High Representative has also called on the authorities to ensure that all citizens are able to exercise their right to free expression and to meet and congregate freely. With the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, she has pointed out that the government must ensure that the forces of law and order act in line with international law.