Venezuelan Bishops Urge Respect for Protesters' Human Dignity

Decry ‘General Criminalization’ of Right to Demonstrate

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As the political situation in Venezuela remains tense a week after three people were killed in student protests, the country’s bishops are asking both government forces and opposition to find a way to respect differences, negotiate and go forward together in building a democratic state.

A statement Friday signed by the presidents of the bishops’ Office of Justice and Peace and the Social Ministry Commission, said the prelates are “profoundly pained by the human cost” of the situation, noting specifically that some 65 people were wounded in last week’s protests and another 80 were arrested.

The prelates noted their disapproval of the “general criminalization on the part of the State of the right to manifest and to protest” as well as armed civil groups acting, “often with the consent of public institutions and forces that have the duty to guarantee social peace and fundamental rights.”

They decried “disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force to maintain public order, vexing human dignity” as well as the restriction of communication.

The bishops’ officials spoke out against “cruel treatment” of those who’d been arrested, and also denounced “any initiative that tends to violence and distorts the peaceful will of the citizens to express their opinions, ideas and discontent.”

They asked for a list of those who had been arrested and there whereabouts, as well as respect for the right to protest.

“We ask all Christians: to pray intensely and to work in the building of peace, giving witness of an authentic following of Jesus Christ, Our Lord, to make the fraternity of God’s sons and daughters possible in our country. We elevate our prayer for all the victims of violence and for their relatives,” the statement added. “We commit ourselves, from the Vicariate of Caracas, La Victoria de los Teques and the Justice and Peace Commission of the Episcopal Conference, to work jointly with the Pro-Life Forum in supporting and advising the victims and in following-up of the events that occurred, calling for an independent investigation, and the guarantee and respect of Human Rights.”

Opposition leader Leopoldo López today turned himself into police as he has been charged with “terrorism.” He told a large rally today that he has nothing to fear and has committed no crime but has simply been loyal to Venezuela.

The government of President Nicolás Maduro is suggesting that the United States is instigating the unrest among the students and other protesters. On Monday, Venezuela expelled three US diplomats.

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Kathleen Naab

United States

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