Venezuelan Bishops express support for widespread, peaceful protests

As demonstrations against declining public services spread across Venezuela, the country’s Bishops decry the inability of the government to find a way out of the economic and political crisis.

By Devin Watkins

Venezuela’s Catholic Bishops have come out in support of a wave of protests that have swept the South American nation.

In a pastoral letter released on Thursday, the Bishops said demonstrators are exercising their “constitutional right to peaceful protest.”

Grass-roots protest movement

Protests broke out in late September in the rural town of Urachiche against declining public services and chronic fuel shortages.

Peaceful demonstrators expressed their anger at having to scrape by without basic services and food supplies.

Within a week the movement had spread to other parts of Venezuela. The government of Nicolas Maduro called out troops to break up the demonstrations, using tear gas and rubber bullets.

Aggrieved citizens

It was in this context that the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference held its latest meeting on 13 to 15 October.

Uniting their voices, the Bishops said the protest movement had emerged locally and in a spontaneous manner.

They added that Venezuelans were “tired of not receiving answers to their rightful claims and feel duped by repeated promises or proposals that are never fulfilled.”

“The National Executive has demonstrated its inability to find solutions to the nation’s serious problems, and its actions tend to make them worse.”

Politics at the service of common good

The Bishops also castigated opposition parties, which they said are divided. “Neither side has presented a national project that could unite and sway the majority of Venezuelans to live in justice, freedom, and peace.”

And they reminded politicians of Pope Francis’ recent call in the encyclical Fratelli tutti for a better kind of politics that is “at the service of the common good.”

Unhelpful elections

Venezuela’s Bishops also expressed their opposition to elections set for 6 December.

“Far from contributing to a democratic solution to the political situation, they are making it worse,” they said.

“It is immoral to hold elections when the people are suffering the effects of the pandemic, the conditions required for subsistence living are rising, and there is no transparency in the rules and monitoring system which should uphold the electoral process.”

Support for peaceful protests

Finally, the Bishops called for all sectors of Venezuelan society to work together to restore the democratic rights of citizens.

That is why, they concluded, “we must support peaceful, civic, and social protests which today have spread across the entire nation.”