Venezuela´s Chávez Quits, Gets Spiritual Aid from Bishop He Maligned

Transitional Government Established; Episcopate Appeals for Peace

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CARACAS, Venezuela, APRIL 12, 2002 ( Shortly after quitting as president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez received spiritual help from one of the people he attacked the most over the past three years: Archbishop Baltasar Porras.

Chávez «was talking for about 35 minutes with Archbishop Porras and I think we gave him the spiritual assistance he needed at the moment,» General Romel Fuenmayor revealed today in statements to local television channels. The archbishop of Merida is the president of the Venezuelan episcopal conference.

Chávez resigned under military pressure after a massive opposition demonstration Thursday ended in a bloodbath. The Venezuelan bishops had appealed for «coexistence in peace and freedom.»

In an official statement, the episcopal conference said: «There is struggle, dissent; ideas must be expressed [but] not with irrationality or violence» and urged that «lies, imposition and arrogance be uprooted from personal and social life, but especially from the political debate.»

A transitional government, headed by business leader Pedro Carmona, was appointed to replace Chávez. Carmona is president of Fedecameras, the largest Venezuelan business organization. He led the three-day general strike that was crucial to Chávez´s ouster.

Carmona announced that Chávez will be kept in custody by the national armed forces, while investigations are carried out to determine his responsibility for what happened over the past three years of his administration and for the violent disturbances that broke out in the capital Thursday. Fourteen people died and 250 were wounded, according to Associated Press estimates.

While in office, Chávez attacked the bishops and Catholic community in general, particularly their educational and charitable works. He did so verbally and politically.

«We are experiencing the deepest sociopolitical crisis of the last years,» the bishops said in a statement. «Today our nation proposes profound and effective changes, through active participation, as real citizens, in a common destiny of peace, liberty and justice,» and the uprooting of violence.

The bishops encouraged «all expressions of a democratic society to continue working for the establishment of a common national and social plan, based on the democratic values of a real state of law, justice, and the promotion of authentic development, without excluding anyone, and uniting all wills.»

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