Pro-Chávez Vandals Try Intimidation on Church

Nation Prepares to Vote on Governors and Mayors

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CARACAS, Venezuela, NOV. 20, 2008 ( Churchgoers in the Venezuelan state of Barinas arrived to Mass on Sunday to find their churches covered with pro-government and anti-clerical graffiti, just a week before local elections.

According to various local news reports, the vandals painted the walls of the majority of the state’s churches with phrases like «out with the bishop» and «homeland, socialism or death.»

The graffiti was partially in retaliation for actions taken by Bishop Ramón Linares Sandoval of Barinas to protect the property of the diocesan seminary. He had informed the press a week ago that members of community councils and militants of the socialist party had gone to the seminary to try to take over the grounds and buildings, alleging that the seminary lacked permits.

Ecclesial authorities spoke with the assailants, but the threat remains that at any time, socialist forces could take over the property. Bishop Linares Sandoval promised to inform the public if the seminary was seized in such an arbitrary manner.

Furthermore, President Hugo Chávez just visited Barinas during part of his presidential tour in support of those candidates for governor and mayor who back his policies.

In Barinas, the president ordered his brother, Adán, who is a candidate for governor there, to expropriate the lands of two local leaders. Barinas is home for the Chávez family, and the brothers’ father, Hugo de los Reyes Chávez, is the current governor.

Nearly all of the nation’s governor and mayor posts are up for vote Sunday.

Last month, the nation’s bishops released a statement expressing their concern «at the situation of growing insecurity, overflowing delinquency and contempt for life» in Venezuela.

They said the upcoming regional elections have «extraordinary importance and projection for the democratic destiny of Venezuela. […] All Catholics and all citizens have the moral obligation of going to the booths and freely and responsibly expressing ourselves regarding the destiny of the nation.»

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