Venezuelan Foreign Minister Hits Out at Catholic Church

Venezuela's foreign minister Elias Jaua has slammed the Catholic Church, accusing local bishops of political bias.

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
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Jaua accused Venezuela's Catholic Church of being politically biased. (AVN)
Jaua accused Venezuela's Catholic Church of being politically biased. (AVN)

Merida, 7th April 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela's foreign minister Elias Jaua has slammed the Catholic Church, accusing local bishops of political bias.

On 2 April, the head of Venezuela's conference of bishops Monsignor Diego Padron accused the government of promoting “a totalitarian-style system of government”. The statement from the church further accused the government of wanting to “solve the crisis by force”.

“The solution is clear: sincere dialogue between the government and all sectors,” Padron stated.

Jaua hit back at Padron on Sunday, denying that the government is repressing peaceful protests.

“We must understand that the Venezuelan state has faced armed groups have practised planned violence that has caused dozens of deaths,” he stated.

Of the 40 reported casualties from opposition protests since February, 20 have been caused by  presumed militant opposition groups or their street barricades.

“What does the bishop's conference want?” the foreign minister responded.

“That we don't act? That we let children in a preschool be burned? That all the universities are burned?” Jaua stated. The minister was referring to a recent attack on a government building and adjacent preschool.

However, Jaua reiterated the government's call for dialogue with the opposition to address issues of “public safety” and “economic and production issues”.

“That is why President [Nicolas] Maduro wants sit down with the opposition, and that's why the Catholic Church should help,” he stated.

Padron's comments came on the heels of statements from the Vatican that the church could mediate talks between the government and opposition. The presence of an international arbiter during dialogue has been a key demand of opposition groups.

Maduro has agreed to Vatican mediation, and called on opposition groups to join peace conferences. However, Venezuela's largest opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) has boycotted talks. The coalition has accused the government of not being “sincere”.

However, today the MUD is expected to meet with a delegation from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). The meeting is expected to include discussion of peace talks with the government. In a statement released on Sunday, the MUD said it “welcomes” the UNASUR visit, and said it would support “respectful dialogue, in view of the whole country, with an agreed agenda and the presence of a bona fide third party”.

“Also in this context, we welcome the possibility announced by the Vatican to help the dialogue and peace in Venezuela,” the MUD stated.

However, Padron also claimed last week that the government's national development plan, the 2013-2019 Homeland Plan is the “principal cause” of protests in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez used the Homeland Plan as his electoral platform during the October 2012 presidential elections, which he won with 55.1% of the vote. The document itself states that its objective is the “transition towards Bolivarian socialism of the 21st century”.

Maduro has pledged to continue the course set by the document, and the plan was voted into law by Venezuela's National Assembly (AN) last December.

Comandante Hugo Chavez introduced this plan in 2012, explained it backwards and forwards across the country,” Jaua stated.

“Venezuelans voted for this plan, it's not that we want to impose a plan on society,” he stated.

“This was the Chavez government's draft plan, and the people voted,” he finished.