By Devin Watkins
The bishops of Venezuela continue their fight on behalf of the nation’s suffering citizens.
Pope Francis stepped into the fray once again on Sunday, launching an appeal for the parties to sit down to find a path out of the current crisis. He also reiterated his constant prayers for all Venezuelans.
Looking for a way out
In an interview with Vatican News, Archbishop Jose Luis Azuaje Ayala of Maracaibo said Venezuela’s bishops appreciate the Pope’s words in support of their people.
But, he said, many people have unrealistic expectations and “think that the Pope needs to repeat constantly not what he has said but what people want him to say.”
The Archbishop said Pope Francis’ relationship with Venezuela, as a religious leader and head of Vatican City State, “has to be very respectful, leading the Pope to say what he has and to express his closeness with the people who suffer.”
Archbishop Azuaje said one extreme faction in the country is hoping an outside force will come to resolve the political crisis, whether it be a military intervention led by the United States or some “messiah”.
These unlikely events, he said, are not the real solution. “The path forward is simply that we – as Venezuelans, with the support of the international community – find solutions to this serious problem that we have.”
More aid needed
In April, Nicolas Maduro agreed to let the Red Cross import humanitarian aid to alleviate massive food and health shortages.
But Archbishop Azuaje said the help provided by Red Cross, though appreciated, is “extremely limited” and reaches only a small portion of the population.
Around 6 million people are in need of food aid, medicines, or healthcare. “We need much more and better aid,” said the Archbishop.
Regime ‘illegitimate and inefficient’
Speaking on behalf of Venezuela’s bishops, he decried the “inefficiency of the regime” of Nicolas Maduro. “In Maracaibo, the lights go out every 5 or 6 hours. There is no water.”
He said the government only tries to patch up problems and is solely focused on maintaining political and ideological control over the country.
“We continue to insist on the need for political change in the country, because without it there will be no change in the economic or social system.”
Maduro, said Archbishop Azuaje, is an illegitimate president, “because the elections were illegitimate and full of irregularities.”
The Archbishop called for a return to the Constitution to guarantee a democratic process and a way out of Venezuela’s political and economic crisis.