.- Recent comments by Cardinal Rosalio Castillo Lara, president emeritus of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, regarding the lack of democracy in Venezuela have provoked a rash of insults from President Hugo Chavez. In an interview with the daily El Universal, Cardinal Castillo Lara noted, “There is no democracy or rule of law here. What we have is just the appearance of democracy” with “laws against the Constitution approved by a weak majority.”
He said the country was living under a dictatorship and that “since he came to power, Chavez began to try to divide the Church’s hierarchy, between the bishops and the priests, by giving favors to some, but only some, under the table, while denying them to others. Only he has failed in his attempt, because all of the bishops, I repeat, all of them, are united in the same thinking. In the way we express ourselves there may be diversity, but together we are all in agreement.”
Chavez responded to the interview, calling the cardinal an “outlaw” and “immoral.” The 82 year-old cardinal said the president’s comments “are not a response to anything concrete, he’s just venting. They don’t bother me at all, because you have to look at the person who is saying such things. And of course I would be offended if a respectable person were to say those things to me. But in this case, I don’t pay any attention to him.”
Cardinal Castillo Lara warned the country is in a very delicate stage and that “it is progressively sliding towards an intolerable situation. That Venezuela would become another Cuba would be a horrible disaster.”
The cardinal also responded to Chavez’s accusations that the late Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Ignacio Velasco, had called for his resignation during the coup attempt of April of 2002.
Cardinal Castillo Lara noted that “the resignation was requested by Military leaders.” Chavez “came to hate Cardinal Ignacio Velasco after the cardinal saw him humiliated on the island of La Orchila. The fact that the cardinal saw him humiliated, ask for forgiveness and apologize for what he tried to do made Chavez hate him and led him to insult the cardinal after he died, saying he was in hell.”
He recalled that it was Chavez who requested the help of Cardinal Velasco and that Chavez was in tears asking the cardinal to help him save his life. “At no time did he ask for his resignation,” Cardinal Castillo Lara said.