Venezuelan Bishops Back a Recall Vote on Chávez

See It as a Means to Avoid Violence

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CARACAS, Venezuela, APRIL 4, 2004 ( Venezuela’s bishops hope the nation turns to a recall referendum to oust President Hugo Chávez, rather than resort to violence to bring about change.

Their position was clarified in a statement made in the extraordinary assembly of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference, called to discuss the country’s economic, social and political crisis.

«We reject violence, from whatever side,» said the statement read out Thursday by the president of the episcopate, Archbishop Baltazar Porras, referring to the tense mood of the country.

The bishop denounced «the boundless repression by the security forces and the tragic toll of dead, of people who have been deprived of their freedom, tortured and humiliated,» following the decision by the National Electoral Council to review the 870,000 signatures calling for the recall referendum against Chávez. The president has rejected the validity of the signatures.

Following the electoral council’s decision, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators close to the opposition coalition took to the streets in protest; many of them carried weapons. At least nine people died and dozens were injured in the ensuing clashes with security forces.

The bishops’ conference announced through Archbishop Porras that «the progressive deterioration of the institutions, the threat of a national collapse, the temptation to have recourse to violence to resolve political and social differences, urge us to support the referendum as a peaceful, democratic and electoral solution to the crisis in the country.»

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