The protests against the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela have taken a Christian turn this week as the mostly Catholic nation celebrates its greatest holiday. Students in Caracas yesterday performed the series of prayers known as the Stations of the Cross dedicated to a democratic nation, with prayers for an end to socialism.
As Infobae reports, college students in Caracas, whose classes have been almost entirely canceled thanks to violent attacks by pro-Maduro forces on campus, marched the streets of Caracas barefoot to perform the Stations of the Cross, a Holy Week ceremony by Catholics in which they recreate the journey Jesus took from his prison to the cross. The ceremony usually involves twelve “stations,” stops on the way to being crucified. The students prayed at one of twelve stations representing a different ailment destroying the nation thanks to the socialist government. “We march barefoot to symbolize the suffering of Venezuela,” one student told the newspaper, “the repression, the bad governance, the scarcity [of goods].”
Students also burned effigies of the most repressive government figures currently in office, including Vice President Diosdado Cabello, who most recently ousted opposition Congresswoman María Corina Machado for traveling to Washington, D.C. and calling for international intervention in the Venezuelan crisis. Infobae notes that burning effigies is also a Catholic practice, as an effigy of Judas often makes appearances in Holy Week ceremonies.
The Catholic Church has been an increasingly vocal presence in the protests against the socialist government of Nicolás Maduro. In a press conference earlier this month, Monsignor Diego Padron, the head of the Venezuelan Catholic Church, condemned the government for the “abusive repression and judicial persecution” of students. Padron implored the government not to “criminalize protest” and called specifically for an end to Maduro’s “Plan of the Nation,” a Great Leap Forward-style economic plan that has already led to new rationing of food and goods and left supermarkets devoid of basic needs.
This week, the Venezuelan Catholic Church officially called for the release of all political prisoners. “I do not understand why they have quarantined Mayors Daniel Ceballos [of San Cristóbal], [Enzo] Scarano [of San Diego], and Leopoldo López,” Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino declared in a statement. “There are inhumane conditions there, so I believe an amnesty law [for political prisoners] would be positive for the nation.” The Cardinal also called for Pope Francis to intervene and urge freedom and peace in the Latin American country.