Bishops Call Chávez Antidemocratic

Warn Venezuela of President’s Socialism

CARACAS, Venezuela, JULY 10, 2007 ( Venezuelan bishops say their country is experiencing one of the most crucial moments in its history with the implementation of socialist policies by President Hugo Chávez.

A proposed reform of the constitution, set for Chávez’ approval next year, includes a clause to remove a set presidential term, and allow for indefinite re-election.

Last week, Chávez responded to the bishops’ concerns, accusing them of ignorance, saying their intentions were perverse and expressing his doubts about their adherence to truth.

The bishops, in their 88th plenary assembly, then offered a pastoral exhortation, published Saturday and titled “Solidarity and Reconciliation,” which outlines the present situation of the Venezuelan people.

The document warned about the president’s steps to “introduce widespread changes” to the constitution, “which include instituting a political and social model under the guise of so-called 20th-century socialism.”

“Various official decisions, like the motto ‘Country, Socialism or Death,’ and declarations by the president and government spokesmen led to the conclusion that the country is headed toward the implementation of a socialist system based on the theory and practices of Marxism and Leninism,” the bishops said.

Undeserved domination

The bishops’ statement highlighted the last “move against freedom of expression” — the government’s closure of a private TV and radio network — saying the act “favors an undeserved domination by the government in the area of social communications, which is obviously antidemocratic.”

They also expressed their concern about a new education law because of its “pretense to teach one political and ideological system, which would give a fatal blow to the rights of teachers and parents.”

The prelates’ statement continued: “The solution to Venezuela’s political and social problems must go beyond the populism that does not deal with problems in-depth, and militarism which grants society’s leading role to the military class, who do not deserve this role.

“No one, and much less the president of the republic, has the right to insult and attack persons or institutions who dissent from his opinions or projects.

“We, bishops of Venezuela, faced with the problems that afflict the country, propose the path laid out by the Lord: the fundamental path to peace, to which we all unite ourselves, is reconciliation and solidarity.”

“The diversity of ideological mindsets,” the bishops added, “belonging to every democracy, must not be transformed into belligerence and intolerance. What is needed is dialogue in search of consensus, upon which the political and social life of every society which claims to be democratic should be based.”

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