President Hugo Chavez insulted Venezuela’s Catholic bishops on Tuesday, calling them "liars" and "perverts", after they questioned the openness of Venezuela's constitutional reform process.
Reform proposals are currently being drafted by a special committee appointed by Chavez. The committee has not made any of the proposed changes public. Members say they took an oath of confidentiality and cannot divulge details until their proposals are presented to lawmakers, reported The Associated Press.
But groups, including the bishops’ conference, are criticizing this closed-door process. "We don't think the constitution should be changed in a laboratory or within closed groups," Archbishop Ubaldo Santana, president of the bishops' conference, was quoted as saying earlier this week. "Rather, it should be something that involves the entire country."
Msgr. Roberto Luckert — one of Chavez's most outspoken critics — also told Globovision TV on Tuesday that he believes Venezuela is headed for "a military autocracy." Chavez has said that he wants to be president until 2021 or beyond, and has proposed indefinite re-election as part of the forthcoming reform.
Chavez said the country's Catholic bishops' conference had demonstrated ignorance by their comments.
"For the love of God, if you do it due to ignorance, reflect. If they do it for perversion, they better take off the robe," said Chavez. "They are either ignorant, perverse or perverts."
It is not uncommon for Chavez to use personal insults to ridicule his critics, including U.S. President George W. Bush, former Mexican President Vicente Fox and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Venezuela's National Assembly, which is controlled by Chavez's allies, will review the proposals next month. The reforms will later be put to a referendum.