Cardinal Sees an Attempt to "Cubanize" Venezuela

Answers Insults From President Chávez

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CARACAS, Venezuela, JULY 20, 2005 ( President Hugo Chávez lashed out at a cardinal, prompting the prelate to comment that the Venezuelan leader responds to criticism by resorting to personal attacks.

Chávez «does not try to show that something that has been pointed out is false or erroneous; what he tries to do is to discredit the person who has made the observation,» said Cardinal Rosalio José Castillo Lara, in reaction to the insults the Venezuelan president leveled against him Sunday, the day an interview with the cardinal was published.

Cardinal Castillo Lara, 82, the retired president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, is now living in his native village of Guiripa, Venezuela.

He has long cautioned his countrymen about the revolutionary political regime headed by Chávez.

In an interview published Sunday in the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal, the cardinal expressed his conviction that the country is being governed by a «dictatorship,» which he defined as «the despotic and arbitrary concentration of power in one person.»

The existing dictatorship «is oriented to establishing a Cubanization here,» he added.

The cardinal warned that Chávez is pursuing «his objective, which is not to favor the poor, but to concentrate power.»

«This so-called revolution,» he said, «in the beginning in a veiled way, but over time ever more openly, has tended toward the concentration of power in the president, thus hoping to eliminate all that might spell opposition in Venezuela and maintain a situation that will allow him to govern indefinitely.»

Veneer of democracy

It is the «most terrible government Venezuela has had since it has been a republic,» Cardinal Castillo Lara added.

Moreover, Chávez has «tried to divide the hierarchy of the Church, and the bishops and priests,» said the cardinal. «He has failed in his attempt, because all the bishops are united in thought.

«They might have different ways of expressing themselves, but as a group they are all in agreement.»

Cardinal Castillo Lara said that for a long time he has warned that the country «no longer has democracy or a state of law. What we have is a veneer of democracy.»

«We are in a dictatorship because constitutional principles have been contravened and laws have been disregarded to establish the CNE» — the National Electoral Council, he said.

Cardinal Castillo Lara explained that «elections should be the democratic vehicle to be able to resolve these situations, but that requires an institution, in charge of holding the elections, which is trustworthy — and the CNE is absolutely not so. On the contrary, it has been fraudulent since it began its activity.»

«No importance»

On the same day, in his radio and television program «Hello President,» President Chávez said that the cardinal was a fomenter of a coup d’état «and the Pope must be told this.»

The president said that the cardinal wants the government repudiated because «he was a go-between for previous governments, a bandit, a coup fomenter, immoral,» reported the Associated Press.

Chávez also called the cardinal a «Pharisee» and «hypocrite,» according to a report Tuesday in El Universal.

In that same newspaper Cardinal Castillo Lara, reacting to Chávez’s comments, said: «I attach no importance to the affirmations of that gentleman; … for me, it is as if I had entered an insane asylum and a lunatic had said something to me.»

For his part, Bishop José Luis Azuaje Ayala, secretary-general of the Venezuelan episcopal conference, lamented the way in which Chávez answered the cardinal, and recalled that the prelate, like any other citizen, has the right to express his opinions.

«The observations made by the cardinal are very precise and should be answered with arguments, not insults and offenses, as the latter don’t help to create an atmosphere of peace, concord and reconciliation,» Bishop Azuaje said.

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