By Charlette Sosa
At their “request,” Pope Francis met Venezuela’s top bishops Thursday. Discussions centered on the country’s growing political unrest against a “cruelly” repressive government.
Six bishops, including Venezuelan Episcopal Conference (CEV) President Archbishop Diego Padrón Sánchez of Cumaná, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas, and Cardinal Baltazar Porras Cardozo of Mérida came to tell His Holiness the “very direct, crude, realistic view of the situation we are going through.”
The Vatican’s daily bulletin listed the meeting but without specific details.
“The situation is very, very grave,” Urosa Savino told Crux Tuesday. “What we see is a people who are suffering, who are being humiliated, and who are being cruelly repressed” by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s regime.
Government moves — through the Supreme Justice Tribunal — to “take the constitutional faculties from the National Assembly,” while at the “same time giving the president a series of super powers,” said Urosa Savino, have “worsened” the political crisis in the last months.
Despite a partial u-turn by the top court, the latest stream of protests has been non-stop since April 4th. The ranks span all social classes. The death toll numbers above 70 with the wounded in the thousands.
“The dead have been caused by the repression, created by state forces and civilian groups armed by the government acting to strengthen government repression, which is something criminal,” said Cardinal Urosa Savino.
Poverty, unrest, impunity, corruption, and widespread shortages in food, electricity, medicine, and basic goods now define what had once been one of the richest countries in Latin America. Polls show that 80% of the population wants Maduro out through new presidential elections.
Pope Francis has repeatedly called for "negotiated solutions” to end the “serious humanitarian, social, political and economic crisis” Venezuelans are suffering.
Vatican supported talks last year broke down because “the government has used the legitimate instrument of dialogue, plain and simple, to postpone solving problems, to avoid having to take action against their own intentions,” said Urosa Savino. “And that, of course, is unacceptable,” he emphasized.
Cardinals Urosa Savino and Porras Cardozo have outspokenly branded the current regime as “totalitarian.” In April, they signed a document calling for “peaceful” disobedience. The CEV labeled Maduro’s plans for National Constituent Assembly to scrap the current Constitution as “unnecessary.”
Maduro has threatened “war” if the Constituent doesn’t go through on July 30th. He has also tried to claim he has the “support” of the Pope.
Venezuela “does not need to reform the constitutional text, rather the Government needs to give full compliance to the full spirit and letter” of our current Constitution, the CEV says.
Padrón Sánchez told the Spanish newspaper ABC, “people are dying” however “faced with such a difficult situation” Maduro’s government “only presents a Constituent Assembly that does not correspond to important needs, such as the opening of a humanitarian channel.”
Despite failing attempts by Maduro to convince Venezuela of the opposite, Urosa Savino sees the Pope aware of the current crisis “which the government has caused” and that Venezuelans are “united, determined [and] unwilling to endure more humiliation, more misery.” Solutions for both the CEV and the Vatican include calling for national elections.
U.S. President Donald Trump recently spoke of putting sanctions on Venezuela. “Sanctions should never be for the people or for the nation, but for those who misuse the role of rulers,” said Urosa Savino.