The rector of the Andres Bello Catholic University in Venezuela, Father Luis Ugalde, said last week, “the greatest preacher in this secular State is its president.” The rector criticized Hugo Chavez for misusing Christianity and the figure of Jesus Christ in an effort to “legitimize himself.”
In an interview with the Spanish daily “ABC,” Father Ugalde explained that Chavez “always poses everything in terms of good guys and bad guys, either you are with me or you are with Bush. He uses Christianity (along with Socialism) to promote such human values, as solidarity, compassion, justice, and to legitimize himself by way of the beliefs of a people rooted in their Catholic faith.”
Referring to the “21st century Socialism” which Chavez frequently references, the Spanish Jesuit priest emphasized, “We are in a new stage, and we need new words, like Socialism or Christianity. But what he is seeking is to make the process irreversible: control of the military, politics, law enforcement and the media…and allow private enterprises to exist as long as they keep quiet.”
“Chavez thinks that production for profit, and not for service, is exploitative capitalism; he thinks that the vaccine against selfishness in production is Socialism. But, at this point, he should already know that everybody works for profit, and that in the area of values there is no vaccine,” he said.
Father Ugalde also addressed the issue of education in Venezuela, noting that the government’s real intention seems to be the adopting of a “Cuban-style education, in which the State alone has the role of educating.”
“That does not mean that all of members of the government are in agreement, because they have their children in private schools, and many send their kids to religious schools. Because, as soon as they begin to analyze the matter, they realize that the Cuban model—although they adhere to it sentimentally—does not bear much fruit,” he added.
Father Ugalde also denounced Chavez for his “furious reaction” to an education law passed by the National Assembly which was “quite reasonable, and which did not discuss the role of the State but rather the idea of providing formation for teachers for ‘indoctrination.’”
“Education,” he continued, “has not improved over the last eight years.” State-run schools have been a failure, and thus passing a law that requires everyone to send their children to a bad, state-run school is not attractive even for those who are most poor.”
“Today nobody is willing to give their life here” to follow in the footsteps of Cuba, Father Ugalde stressed. “People point to the Revolution because there is much money there. That is the tragedy of the Government, besieged by inefficiency and by corruption,” he said. State-run schools are more for the creation of a “militant working class in 21st century Socialism” than for providing authentic education.