By Charlette Sosa
Pope Francis is “very close to the suffering” of Venezuelans and fully “trusts” the country’s top bishops, said Venezuelan Episcopal Conference (CEV) President Archbishop Diego Padrón Sánchez of Cumaná.
His Holiness is “very well informed about the situation,” Padrón Sánchez said after the CEV’s audience with the Pope on Thursday. “We have his full trust” and “support,” there is “no distance” between him and the CEV, reported Crux.
Talks between the Pope and the six bishops — among whom also included Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas and Cardinal Baltazar Porras Cardozo of Mérida — focused on a “direct, crude, realistic view” of what Venezuelans are “going through” under President Nicolás Maduro’s regime.
“In Venezuela, there is no longer an ideological conflict between right and left or between ‘patriots’ and ‘escualidos’,” said their letter to the Pope. The “struggle” is “between a dictatorship — a self-referential government that serves only its own interests — and a people that cries out for freedom and anxiously seeks — at the risk of the lives of the young —food, medicine, security, work and fair elections, full liberties, and autonomous public powers that put the common good and social peace first.”
“We totally deny” the Maduro Administration’s pretense to papal support, Padrón Sánchez told the SIR news agency today.
His Holiness is “close to those who suffer, to the poor, and to those in need,” Padrón Sánchez said. In contrast, the goal of Maduro’s regime is “to remain in power at all costs.” The head of the CEV insisted the government makes the people suffer to “keep them submissive.”
Poverty, unrest, impunity, corruption, and widespread shortages 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.
The CEV warned the Pope that Maduro’s plan for a National Constituent Assembly to scrap the Constitution without first holding a consultative referendum was both “unnecessary and unequal from a social point of view” and therefore “inappropriate and dangerous.”
Maduro has threatened “war” if the Constituent doesn’t go through on July 30th. In 1999, his predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez, held a referendum to create the assembly for the current Constitution. It was the first approved by a popular vote in Venezuelan history.
The letter to the Pope Thurday stated, the CEV “categorically rejects” this Constituent Assembly. It “will be imposed by force, and its results will be the constitutionalization of a military, Marxist-socialist and communist dictatorship.”
Moreover, “it will leave the current government in power, annul established public powers, particularly of the current National Assembly; increase persecution and exile of opponents of the dominant political system; and expand facilities for corruption.”
On Thursday, Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz petitioned the country’s top court to stop Maduro’s plans for the Constituent, reported the LAHT. This follows a ruling by the Supreme Justice Tribunal (TSJ) that the assembly could move ahead without a popular referendum.
Maduro and his administration are “destroying the legacy” of President Chávez. “The authority to convene” a constitutional convention belongs to the people, Ortega Diaz said. In office for over a decade, the attorney general has become a thorn of conscious within the government stronghold in the last few months.
In an interview ahead of the papal meeting Urosa Savino told Crux, the government moves last March — through the TSJ — to “take the constitutional faculties from the National Assembly,” while at the “same time giving the president a series of super powers,” have “worsened” the political crisis.
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.
Meanwhile in Rome the Venezuelan-born “black pope” said “there is increasing demand for significant changes” in my country. The “majority” want a “peaceful resolution,” Father Arturo Sosa Abascal told SIR on Wednesday. The “human costs of this process are too high,” insisted the Superior General of the Jesuits.
“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 Urosa Savino.