Venezuelan bishops criticize National Guard for obstructing aid to victims of rains, landslides

Caritas Merida assists in solidarity work after heavy rains in the Venezuelan state. Caritas Merida assists in solidarity work after heavy rains in the Venezuelan state. Credit: Caritas Merida.

The Venezuelan bishops’ conference criticized on Monday the Venezuelan National Guard for hindering the work of providing humanitarian aid to the regions affected by the recent heavy rains and landslides.

The rains that fell Aug. 23-24 in the Mocotíes Valley in the state of Mérida have caused flooding and mudslides, leaving at least 20 dead.

More than 50,000 people and more than 14,000 families have been affected by the rains and floods in the states of Mérida, Táchira, Zulia, Amazonas, Bolívar, Delta Amacuro, Monagas, Apure, and Aragua.

In an Aug. 30 statement, the Venezuelan bishops noted that in the face of the tragedy "the response of solidarity from both the Catholic Church, as well as other religious denominations and civil institutions was immediate."

“Thanks to the immediate response of so many people of good will, it has been possible to provide aid in various forms, from medicine and food to clothing and other necessary supplies. Charity has no limits, nor does it set conditions to its practice as it doesn’t discriminate in the least against the recipients of the works of mercy,”

"National Caritas along with Caritas of various dioceses have quickly responded by collecting the supplies that have been arriving from various parts of the country," they said.

However, the Venezuelan bishops said that "we deplore and condemn the attitude of some of the civil authorities, as well as the Bolivarian National Guard."

These authorities, they charged, “far from cooperating disinterestedly, not only have they prevented access to a large part of the aid sent from various parts of the country, but they have also had an indifferent and offensive attitude towards members of the Church and other institutions.”

These authorities, they continued, "claim to have received orders from those above them, which in any case they should own up to it."

The bishops exhorted the authorities "to change their attitude and place themselves at the service of the institutions that are actually working together."

“In such a way that helps shipments reach their destination soon, giving priority to the transportation of supplies; mobilizing contingents to open up  roads and other actions for the benefit of the affected population,” they said.

The bishops also called on the authorities to "not act for special interests" because "they are at the service of all Venezuelans” and should not be serving “a political bias."

Under the socialist administration of Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela has been marred by violence and political and social upheaval, with severe shortages of food and medicine, high unemployment, power outages, and hyperinflation. Over four million Venezuelans have emigrated since 2015.

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