Venezuelan Bishops Warn That Nation Could Break Down

CARACAS, Venezuela, JAN. 12, 2003 ( Venezuela’s escalating crisis is threatening the very stability of the republic, the Catholic bishops’ conference warns.

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The episcopal conference spelled out its fears in a document published Friday. Church leaders also expressed their concerns at a meeting with the delegates of the Table of Dialogue, a forum for representatives of the government and the opposition under the aegis of Cesar Gaviria, secretary-general of the Organization of American States.

As a weeks-long opposition strike against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez continued, the bishops relaunched their appeal for the need to intensify negotiations.

Archbishop Baltazar Porras, chairman of the episcopal conference, underlined that the «prolonged political confrontation has reached dangerous levels of friction and verbal, physical and moral violence.»

«An eventual ulterior escalation of the confrontation would not leave winners or defeated, but just one great loser: Venezuela,» he said.

Tension escalated after Chávez announced that he had ordered his troops to prepare to seize control of the food supplies, according to the French press.

«I will not allow my people to die of hunger because of a strike,» Chávez said.

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