By Linda Bordoni
The bishops of Venezuela have released a strongly-worded statement in which they list a series of grave problems afflicting the people and express their concern for the “surprising indifference of government officials” in the face of these problems.
They also make an urgent appeal to President Nicolas Maduro to reconsider his re-election bid and focus on tackling grave humanitarian concerns afflicting the people.
As pastors driven by the love of Christ and as citizens of Venezuela” the bishops say at the beginning of a statement which was released on Monday, “we turn to Catholics and to all men and women of good will to share our concerns”.
“We are alarmed to see how the evils pointed out in our Pastoral Exhortation of January of this year have worsened: Hyperinflation has increased the general impoverishment of the population, with the decomposition of the quality of life of all. The general lack of electricity, water and gas services throughout the country makes life more and more difficult” the statement says.
All this, the bishops point out, in the face of the surprising indifference of government officials who are charged with solving these problems.
Hunger, unemployment, lack of healthcare
They state that the very plans put into place by President Maduro to assuage food scarcity are not working, and “it all translates into more hunger and unemployment.”
Added to this, they say, is “the increase in unhealthiness due to the uncontrollable appearance of epidemics and diseases in the most vulnerable populations, with the aggravating factor of the lack of medicines for treatment. This problem is generating a large number of protests throughout the country, which, although silenced by the media, are increasing”.
The bishops highlight the fact that more and more Venezuelans, from all levels of society, are emigrating “in increasingly precarious conditions”.
They point out that this breaks family ties, brings desolation and abandonment of the elderly and children.
They also express gratitude to the countries that have welcomed and received Venezuelans who have been forced to leave and to Church organizations for the assistance offered to migrants.
Presidential elections lack legitimacy
“Faced with humanitarian problems of such magnitude, the statement says, the Presidential elections, called for May 20, lack legitimacy”.
The bishops elaborate on this concept saying the electoral campaign has not been conceived with guarantees to ensure a free, reliable and transparent electoral process.
They point out that far from providing a solution to the crisis, an electoral campaign could aggravate the crisis and trigger an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe.
“It is therefore urgent to postpone (the vote) to the last trimester of the year” they say.
Appeal to leaders of the nation
The bishops reiterate their urgent appeal to the rulers and leaders of the nation to take responsibility for the many issues and to listen to the people and engage with them without further delay.
They suggest the help of private sectors and even of sister countries could be solicited in the attempt to control hyperinflation and to facilitate the search for political solutions.
“All Venezuelans must be aware that at stake at this time is not only an electoral event or even the transitory deterioration of the quality of life of a people, but its very existence as a free, fraternal and democratic nation” they say.
The bishops of Venezuela conclude their appeal calling for a change in direction in order to “take a different course from this saga of death”, through “the strength of faith and the power of hope” urging “those who believe in the living and Risen Christ” to be courageous and to take responsibility in the knowledge that the last word does not belong to loneliness, suffering or hopelessness, but to God.