Venezuelan archbishop fears further division if Chavez's law is passed


The vice president of the Venezuelan bishops' conference, Archbishop Baltazar Porras, warned that granting President Hugo Chavez the power to rule by decree would result in greater division and “corruption.”

Chavez asked the National Assembly on Dec. 10 to pass a law allowing him to rule by decree for one year in order to address the country's flooding crisis.

If approved, the measure would give Chavez direct power over land use, the military and police forces, transportation and public services. He would also have greater control over the treasury and the tax code, urban and rural development, international relations and the emergency response to the flooding.

Opposition leaders argue the president is only seeking to limit freedoms in the country.

Aid can be provided to those impacted by the recent floods without the new law, Archbishop Porras  explained on Dec. 15. The torrential rains and subsequent floods have left 30 dead and 130,000 homeless.

The archbishop warned that the president's proposal is part of a strategy that would further divide the country. He pointed out that the law would ignore the will of people expressed in the Sept. 26 elections, in which the opposition party won 67 of the 165 seats in the National Assembly.

Archbishop Porras cautioned that measures passed without the public's knowledge and without any debate result in increasing restrictions on the little freedom and democracy that remains in Venezuela.

Such measures are cause for alarm for the Church and other institutions because they indicate that “we seem to be moving towards a dictatorship” with no room for opposing views. It will only result in greater violence and corruption, he added.

The National Assembly will vote on the law Dec. 17.

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