Maduro cancelled a trip to the Vatican where he was expected to meet Pope Francis, due to “a strong virosis”. Maduro was scheduled to leave for Rome today, but sent Vice-President Arreaza in his stead.
Maduro made the announcement during a televised speech earlier today. He said:
I’ve had to suspend my trip to Rome due to a medical recommendation. I should have left by now.
I was going to have a personal meeting with Pope Francias. I’ve told [the Vatican] that we should find a new date. I’m really ashamed, [but] I’ve got a huge cold and and an ear infection. The doctors have prohibited me from going on a trip like this. I’m sending Vice-President Jorge Arreaza so that he can take care of most of the items on the agenda.
MUD Expresses Disappointment
The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica called Maduro’s cancelled trip to the Vatican “a diplomatic failure”, and suggested that the real reason for the trip’s cancellation was Maduro’s unwillingness to meet with Pope Francis out of fear he would criticize the human rights situation in the country.
Jesus Torrealba, the head of the MUD, said:
Whether he backed out of the trip out of a fear of what he might find there, or fear for what he would be leaving behind here, this trip’s cancellation is a sign of a regime in a precarious position. Maduro’s “illness” won’t allow him to meet with the Pope, but it does allow him to spend hours making political speeches through a questionable use of state resources.
Torrealba was referencing Maduro’s penchant for making televised speeches en cadena as he did today. When Maduro speaks en cadena, every television and radio channel is required by law to switch to his speech for its duration. Maduro often speaks for hours at a time, several times a week, raising concerns that his office gives him an unfair campaigning advantage by granting him and other PSUV officials unlimited air time.