By Vatican News staff writer
The Bishops of Venezuela are insisting once again that their country needs “a radical change in political leadership, which requires from the government sufficient strength, reasonableness, and feelings of love for the country to stop this sea of suffering of the Venezuelan people.”
They call for efforts to be made to find legal, peaceful, and expeditious means to secure a “democratic transition” through early presidential and parliamentary elections “on the basis of freedom and equality for all,” and including the participation of pluralistic observers.
The call comes in a Pastoral Exhortation that addresses the “very serious” situation in which the country finds itself.
The Bishops released the Exhortation at the conclusion of the 115th Plenary Assembly of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference (CEV), which took place last week in a virtual manner due to the ongoing pandemic.
Illegitimate elections and the National Assembly
The Bishop’s Exhortation describes the so-called parliamentary "elections" of 6 December as an event plagued by serious irregularities and low turnout, which remains unrecognized by large sectors of the international community.
The results of the election “do not express the will of the people, nor do they reflect social pluralism,” the Bishops say.
They add that installing a National Assembly “that lacks a democratic foundation, in the midst of ‘revanchism,’ the disqualification of opposition leaders, and intimidation and threats of persecution,” does not help solve the country’s problems. A rival “Popular Consultation,” which the Bishops describe as in conformity with nation’s Constitution, is not expected “to produce concrete results in the immediate future.”
Communist ideology that impoverishes the country
The people of Venezuela, the Bishops say, “are suffering the dire consequences of an economic model, imposed by a communist-style regime and ideology, which has impoverished everyone, especially the weakest.”
In their Exhortation, the Bishops also criticize the “wrongly-named ‘Plan for the Fatherland’ which seeks to impose laws to create a communal state,” led by people who have not accepted the responsibility or the ethical demands that come with being a government.
Repeated violation of human rights
The Bishops also denounce the persistent violation of the human rights guaranteed by the National Constitution. These rights, they say, “have been disregarded” by the very people who wrote the Constitution; and those who insist upon respect for those rights “become victims of persecution, and violent and oppressive disqualification.”
The Exhortation highlights the reports of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights of June 2019; of the UN Special Mission of 15 September 2020; and of the Prosecutor's Office of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, of 14 December 2020, all of which are based on “a large number of files on torture and murders that point to crimes allegedly committed by officials of the current government.”
Migrants harassed by police and military
The Pastoral Exhortation laments the deterioration of the quality of life, education, health, and basic services, as well as the “unstoppable inflation and devaluation that has impoverished the entire population.”
These problems have led to increased forced migration, which instead of being protected, is subject to harassment by police and military forces, the Bishops say. “This migration,” they add, “is the most obvious proof of the great failure of public policies (economic and social) implemented by the government.”
The Bishops defend proclamation of a new human right, “the right not to emigrate” — proposed by Pope Francis in the Encyclical Fratelli tutti — since every country must offer its citizens “the minimum conditions for their development and that of their families, so as not to abandon their land, their loved ones, their cultural environment and their desires.”
Allow humanitarian aid
Because “the whole country is suffering due to the terrible crisis” is it going through, “humanitarian aid cannot be politicized,” the Bishops insist.
They call for the “freedom of action” of intermediate social bodies to be guaranteed, and for non-governmental organizations to be permitted to help provide solutions to community problems in the areas of food, health, education and the promotion of human rights in general.
Day of prayer for Venezuela
The CEV's message concludes with an invitation to participate in a National Day of Prayer and Reflection on February 2, to remain strengthened in God and to ask for a peaceful resolution of conflicts.
And looking ahead to the Beatification in 2021 of Dr. José Gregorio Hernández, whom they describe as “a model of service and the option for the poor,” the Bishops express their hopes that this will be an occasion “for an encounter that must have a clear objective: the re-founding of Venezuela with principles of nationality inspired by the Gospel.”
The Bishops then re-commit themselves and their churches to “building spaces that lead to dialogue and national reconciliation,” in order to foster “truth, justice, freedom, and fraternity that come from the love of God.”