In a stinging public letter, the Catholic bishops of Venezuela have accused their government of totalitarian oppression of citizens and widespread violations of human rights.
After enumerating a catalog of social and economic problems, the bishops identify the Marxist regime as the root cause of the problems generalized in the country.
“The main problem and the cause of this general crisis,” the bishops write, is the decision made by the National Government to adopt “a Marxist-Socialist or Communist political-economic system.”
“This totalitarian and centralized system,” they continue, “establishes State control over every aspect of the lives of citizens as well as of public and private institutions.”
“It moreover assails the freedom and rights of persons and associations and has led to the oppression and ruin of every country where it has been adopted,” they said.
Elected president in 1998, Hugo Chávez became the central figure of the Venezuelan political landscape and established ever tighter controls over the country, abrogating laws at will and systematically stamping out adversaries. Upon his death in office in early 2013, Chávez was succeeded by Nicolás Maduro, a member of the leftist United Socialist Party of Venezuela, who has continued in his predecessor’s shoes.
The bishops present as examples of government abuse:
- disdain for any proposal other than the official one
- the establishment of a communications hegemony that restricts the action of independent media
- control of unions
- persecution of political dissidents through judicial means
- the multiplication of laws, norms and procedures that obstruct the private sector, including non-profits dedicated to works of social welfare
The bishops accused the inefficient totalitarian system of producing “a huge foreign debt, which jeopardizes the future of Venezuelans, unbridled inflation, devaluation of our currency, mining contraband and commodity shortages, which have led to the impoverishment of increasingly broad sectors of the population.”
To solve these problems, the Catholic hierarchy proposes true “dialogue as essential to the solution.”
However, the bishops added that to reach a consensus “absolute respect for human rights” is indispensable, “including an end to police abuse, to intimidation and silencing of political opponents through the court system, and respect for freedom of expression.”
The Catholic Church’s officials in Venezuela have been loudly denouncing the regime for some time, though much more prominently during the Maduro tenure than under Chávez. In April 2014, the head of the Church in Venezuela denounced Maduro for imposing free speech restrictions, calling against the government’s move to “criminalize protest.” The Church also rebuked the Socialist Party last year for rewriting the Lord’s Prayer as an homage to Hugo Chávez.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome