OAS Official Praises Bishops' Role in Venezuela

Sees Conference as Moderating Factor in Country

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CARACAS, Venezuela, OCT. 31, 2002 (Zenit.org).- An official of the Organization of American States called the Venezuelan Catholic bishops’ conference «an enormous factor of moderation and mediation» in this troubled country.

Representatives of the bishops’ conference (CEV) met Tuesday with César Gaviria, secretary-general of OAS, to explore ways to resolve peacefully the political tensions gripping Venezuela.

At the end of the almost two-hour meeting, held at the episcopate’s headquarters, Gaviria said «the CEV is an enormous factor of moderation and mediation, to which at some time or another all sectors of society turn because they are aware of its straight conduct.»

For his part, Archbishop Baltazar Porras of Merida, president of the episcopal conference, recalled the Church’s traditional position of neutrality on political questions, and encouraged Venezuelans to have confidence in Gaviria’s peace mission.

«This is an opportunity and we would be facing a far more conflictive situation, with possibilities of violence, if we bet on the failure of this mission,» the archbishop said.

The meeting examined the possibility of early elections. Archbishop Porras explained in this regard that «all sides must give way, but the government is the one that has more responsibility and power.»

The OAS secretary-general said that he is consulting with the government and the democratic coordinator about establishing a series of «working tables,» to begin talks aimed at ending the political crisis.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that Venezuela’s government and opposition hardened their positions over an early vote on Hugo Chávez’s presidency, threatening to spoil the OAS peace mission.

Carlos Ortega, head of the Venezuelan Workers Confederation, said that labor, business and opposition groups could call an indefinite general strike if Chávez ignores their demand for a nonbinding December referendum on his rule, AP reported.

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