CARACAS — The socialist regime of Venezuela has been at odds with the national Catholic Church since its inception over 20 years ago, a fact it has tried to obscure from the nation’s devout by constantly usurping religious authority and “redefining” Christianity to fit its authoritarian goals.
The recent Beatification of Dr. José Gregorio Hernandez (1861-1919) presented Venezuela with a rare and ephemeral moment of unity through our faith. Dr. Gregorio Hernandez was a Venezuelan physician worshipped by Venezuelans and intrinsically tied to our faith (most specifically, in matters pertaining to our health and that of our loved ones), who now the Catholic Church attributes a miracle to. The Beatification process is a declaration by the Pope that allows a person to be venerated and is one step behind sainthood.
This fortuitous culmination of a campaign that spanned over 70 years was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that the socialist regime was not going to waste.
Venezuela has a long history of robust Christian faith. Currently, demographers believe that as much as 96 percent of Venezuela’s population is Catholic, and the overwhelming majority of the rest are Protestants or belong to other Christian communities. With this in mind, dictator Nicolás Maduro has not had the freedom other Marxist authoritarians do to openly attack religion. Instead, he has proclaimed himself Venezuela’s most devout Catholic and attempted to rebrand Catholicism as a Bolivarian Revolutionary faith.
And he used the opportunity of the closest thing Venezuela has ever had to a saint to sell a fake coronavirus “cure” only socialism could produce.
Maduro was at the forefront of antics to use Blessed Gregorio Hernandez’s name and miraculous backstory for the advertisement and promotion of Carvativir, an Isotimol-based product that, according to Maduro, will cure any patient.
“Ten drops under the tongue every four hours and the miracle is done,” Maduro has promised repeatedly on televised broadcasts.
No scientific evidence suggests the droplets have any effect against coronavirus and, according to the Academy of Medicine of Venezuela, they only work as a mouthwash. Maduro has faced censorship on Facebook, but not on Twitter, for repeatedly promoting this false herbal “cure.”
Socialist party strongman and suspected drug lord Diosdado Cabello took the appropriation of Gregorio Hernandez a step further, boasting on his state television show that the doctor, who had no known ties to any political or ideological movements, was “the first militant who enlisted to defend the Homeland.”
— Con el Mazo Dando (@ConElMazoDando) May 6, 2021
To further take possession of Gregorio Hernandez, the regime has named one of the several meager handouts it distributes through its Chinese social credit score-inspired “Fatherland” system after the recently beatified saint.
Evidence suggests that Venezuelan Catholics aren’t buying it. At the unveiling of a statue of Gregorio Hernandez in a Caracas plaza, the gathered crowd booed at the mere mention of Maduro. The statue’s plaque, which bore Maduro’s signature, fell a couple of days later.
The Episcopal Conference of Venezuela has always had a critical stance against the Bolivarian Revolution, for which it has endured constant hostilities that have ranged from offensive comments to the defilement of religious imagery to website hacking and outright attacks carried out by the “colectivos,” leftist paramilitary gangs that serve the socialist revolution.
Venezuelan Catholics are used to this. The conflictive relationship between the regime and the church has its roots in the start of the Bolivarian Revolution itself that has endured across more than two decades now.
“The Devil under the Cassock,” is how Hugo Chávez — now posthumously ascended to the title of Supreme and Eternal Commander of the Bolivarian Revolution — once referred to Venezuelan bishops at the eve of Venezuela’s dubious 2000 “mega-elections” celebrated months after the Revolution rewrote our Constitution.
By discrediting the true stewards of the faith, Chávez positioned himself as the only legitimate voice on Catholicism. Right after his brief ouster in 2002, he showed up on camera holding a crucifix in hand, asking for forgiveness for his actions. The charade only lasted as long as he felt remotely threatened while in power.
When Hugo Chávez’s fight against cancer became the cornerstone of the Socialist Party’s discourse, the Revolution’s hostility towards the Venezuelan Catholic Church was drastically toned down — religion and faith rapidly became a driving force for the revolution and the 2012 presidential campaign.
A common practice of the left’s online discourse is to distort the figure of Jesus Christ by claiming that he was a “socialist,” something that the “Supreme and Eternal Commander” once did years ago. At the risk of sounding cheeky, unlike socialists, Christ fed the poor.
Another example that has persisted through time is the “Feliz Chavidad” motto, a portmanteau of “Chávez” and the Spanish word for Christmas (Navidad), whose origins go way back to the early years of the Revolution. Before the inexorable collapse of this country’s socialist system, “Feliz Chavidad” was used to mock and ridicule the Venezuelan opposition and those who did not sympathize with the regime. Today, now that we’re all but broken and exhausted after all that’s happened in this country, “Feliz Chavidad” is used to satirize the not-so-bright Christmas that we now have.
Out of all their parasitic latching onto religion, the attempt that stands above the rest is their insidious attempt to hijack and twist the Lord’s Prayer and make it all about Hugo Chávez. Thankfully, the intense backlash made the “Our Chávez” prayer a short-lived one, at least when publicly speaking. As I’m not a member of the Socialist Party of Venezuela, I don’t know what transpires behind closed doors.
Following Chávez’s death in March 2013, Nicolás Maduro’s regime sought to deify Chávez’s figure and exalt him as “the most important believer of Christianity in our history.” At the same time, the regime’s mandatory broadcasts of that time became something that I can best describe as North Korean-esque, showing a “heavenly” Chávez through the use of spliced images and footage — it’s something that one must see to believe.
None of the constant hostilities from the Bolivarian Revolution towards the Venezuelan Catholic church impeded Pope Francis from receiving Maduro in the Vatican. Venezuelan churches have remained shut down since the start of the country’s Chinese coronavirus lockdowns in March 2020. With a completely collapsed country courtesy of socialism, a Catholic Church that’s openly critical of the regime, and non-existent popularity, Maduro has sought to entice the Venezuelan Evangelical community in recent times in search of allies — something that has already caused a divide among the Evangelical community.
Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.