In one his harshest criticisms to date of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Cardinal Rosalio Castillo Lara accused that country’s government of having “lost its way” and of showing “signs of dictatorship.”
The retired Salesian cardinal, who served for years at the Vatican as President of the Administration of the Holy See’s Patrimony, presided at the traditional Procession of the Divine Shepherdess—a popular Marian devotion that draws millions of people every year—through the downtown streets of Barquisimeto.
Although he focused most of his homily on the spiritual values of the Marian devotion and on the Catholic roots of Venezuela, Cardinal Lara launched his harshest criticism yet of the Chavez regime at the end of his remarks.
“On this solemn occasion I ask that we all together fervently pray to the Divine Shepherdess to save Venezuela,” the cardinal said. “We are facing an extremely grave situation like few others in our history.”
"A government democratically elected seven years ago has lost its democratic way and shows signs of dictatorship, where all powers are in the hands of one person who exercises them in an arbitrary and despotic way," Cardinal Castillo added, “not for the purposes of bringing about the greater common good of the nation, but rather for a twisted and archaic political project: that of implanting in Venezuela a disastrous regime like the one Fidel Castro has imposed on Cuba, at the cost of so many human lives and the progress of his nation.”
“The seven years of this government,” he warned, “provide abundant proof of what the future of Venezuela will be like if this regime continues in power.”
Pointing to the risks of a continuing Chavez government, Cardinal Lara noted that “dissidence, which is barely tolerated, is in many cases persecuted. Courts hand down unjust sentences in the name of the law. There are dozens of political prisoners, while common crime increases and reaps a tragic sum of 10,000 murders per year. Corruption—which they promised to radically eliminate—is spreading in the face of silence and complacent inaction by the General Comptroller of the Republic, resulting in the creation of thousands of new millionaires. At the same time, poverty is increasing, unemployment is widespread,” the cardinal stated.
Cardinal Lara also warned that “the extremely high price of oil, which would allow many problems to be solved, is being used instead to fund multi-million dollar gifts to obtain uncertain political loyalty from other nations, while in Venezuela we are painfully feeling the lack of interventions and projects to equip hospitals with what they need, to repair communication channels and city streets, to build housing and schools.”
Cardinal Lara said a future with Chavez would be “a very grave situation that could be compared to the cholera outbreak of 150 years ago that led to the miraculous intervention of the Divine Shepherdess.”
“If the Venezuelan people fail to grasp the seriousness of the situation and fail to categorically speak out in favor of democracy and freedom, we will find ourselves subjected to a Marxist-style dictatorship,” Cardinal Lara said in conclusion.