Venezuelan government blasted for blocking Church aid

Venezuela flag Credit Alex Lanz via Flickr CC BY NC SA 20 with filter CNA 6 16 15 Alex Lanz via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) with filter.

A top Venezuelan prelate slammed president Nicolás Maduro's lack of "moral authority" in calling for peace while preventing the Church and other institutions from relieving the country's severe food crisis.

"The interests of the government are not the interests of the country," said Archbishop Diego Padrón of Cumaná, who heads the Venezuelan Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The archbishop made his remarks during his opening speech at the Venezuelan Conference of Catholic Bishops' recent plenary assembly.

Venezuela's socialist government is widely blamed for the crisis. Since 2003, price controls on some 160 products, including cooking oil, soap, and flour, have meant that while they are affordable, they fly off store shelves only to be resold on the black market at much higher rates.

"The ungovernability, aside from the brutal repression, the lack of serious and stabilizing responses that would be more than improvisational and provisional, create the widespread perception that the global crisis is getting more acute and is being prolonged with no end in sight," the archbishop said.

Archbishop Padrón warned that this perception creates in the population "uncertainty, hopelessness, depression, anger and social violence." He cited the example of looting and riots over food shortages which took place in Cumaná in mid-June and in Tucupita between June 30 and July 1, with dozens of arrests and clashes with the National Guard.

These cities as well as others, he said, "have experienced the effects of the wrong economic and social policies and the indolence of the authorities."

"It seems like a new edition of the 'Caracazo' coming out in chapters," Archbishop Padrón warned in reference to the protests and riots that occurred in Caracas between Feb. 27 and March 8, 1989 during the government of  President Carlos Andrés Pérez. At that time the country was facing another economic crisis, with protests that ended with around 300 deaths.

During his remarks, Archbishop Padrón restated the Church's request that through Caritas, it could bring in "the medications needed by many Venezuelans requiring heightened medical attention."

"The ability of Caritas Venezuela to pull together resources and the cooperation of private institutions – and not of government entities – makes us capable of receiving and adequately distributing the many offers we receive daily from the outside."

"This is not the ultimate solution but it would provide relief that we shouldn't be waiting for any more," he said.

In May of this year, Caritas Venezuela's director Janeth Marquez told CNA that as of that time, her organization had made three attempts to reach out to Maduro's regime asking that food and medicine be allowed into the country.

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