Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday he would ask Pope Francis to persuade opponents that children should not participate in violent protests that have rocked the country, as both sides of the conflict seek help from the Catholic Church.
Young teenagers wearing face masks and throwing rocks are a common sight at anti-government protests that have roiled the capital, Caracas, since April. At least six of the 67 people killed in the protests were under 18.
Maduro said opposition parties were “training children for terrorist groups,” using his preferred terminology for the protesters he says are intent on overthrowing the government of the oil-producing nation.
“I am going to ask Pope Francis to help us so the opposition end the violence, but more than anything to stop looking for children to involve in violent acts,” he said on a weekly television broadcast.