International News

Venezuela Cardinal Calls Pro-Maduro Violence ‘Immoral’

By Inés San Martín

A Venezuelan National Guard vehicle ploughs into opposition demonstrators in Caracas in this still image taken from a video footage April 30. Tensions escalated in Venezuela after the country’s U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido called for the military to topple President Nicolas Maduro. (Photo Catholic News Service/Reuters TV)

ROME (Crux) – Cardinal Jorge Urosa, former Archbishop of Caracas, Venezuela, says the local bishops strongly condemn what he called the “immoral” repression perpetrated by the government of Nicolas Maduro, which, according to the United Nations, has seen at least five people killed in the past few days, three of them minors.

“The bishops maintain our position to call for peaceful and democratic solutions,” Cardinal Urosa told Crux. “We consider that the ongoing repression is immoral, as is the fact that the current political leaders want to remain in power despite the heartache, pain, and economic and structural disaster that Venezuela is currently in.”

“We maintain our unity, our closeness and accompaniment with the people of Venezuela,” he said.

The bishops of Venezuela gathered April 29 to May 1 in what was supposed to be a general assembly, although the prelates ended up working in small groups as only 26 could attend. According to Cardinal Urosa, due to the ongoing crisis and revolt, many couldn’t travel to Caracas.

Those tensions reached another peak two weeks ago when Juan Guaidó, the president of the National Assembly who was sworn in as interim president in January, attempted to supplant Maduro, who refuses to resign his post.

According to Cardinal Urosa, the bishops also maintain their political independence and autonomy, as well as “perfect alignment with Pope Francis and the Holy See.”

In a statement released on May 3, the Venezuelan bishops’ Commission for Justice and Peace said human rights are “inviolable” and that crimes committed by government forces during peaceful rallies cannot be “justified as due obedience.”

Referring to the rallies that took place April 30 to May 2, the commission also condemned abuses of “freedom of the press, as 12 media workers were victims of diverse forms of violence.”

The bishops called on the military and the pro-Maduro militias to respect private property and the rights of others, while calling on them to put an end to what they called the “criminal, lethal use of force,” and urging authorities to authorize the immediate release of 300 people who were detained during the rallies.

As they have done in the past, the bishops said that such crimes should not have a statute of limitations.

In his comments to Crux, Cardinal Urosa said that actions being taken by the opposition, including Guaidó, are in line with exercising “internal pressure” to force the government to resign, allowing the National Assembly to call elections.

“These actions are also meant to garner the support of the international community, including the Organization of American States and the government of the United States, so that they exercise pressure over the government,” Cardinal Urosa said.

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