Cardinal grieves over those killed in protests amid Venezuela crisis

Cardinal Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo of Merida Venezuela takes possession of St John the Evangelist in Rome Italy on June 12 2017 Credit Daniel Ibanez 7 CNA Cardinal Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo of Merida in Rome, June 12, 2017. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Cardinal Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo expressed his condolences Thursday to the families of the four youths killed during protests in Venezuela, who he said "lost their lives fighting for a better future."

Nationwide protests occurred this week against the government of president Nicolas Maduro. According to Marco Antonio Ponce, director of the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict, Yosner Graterol, 16; Yoifre Hernández Vásquez, 14; Jurubith Rausseo García, 27; and Samuel Méndez, 24; were all killed by gunfire while protesting this week. Another 50 persons were injured.

"We extend our most sincere condolences to the families of the young people who lost their lives fighting for a better future for Venezuela," Cardinal Porras, Archbishop of Mérida and Apostolic Administrator of Caracas, said on Twitter May 2. "We pray to God that your souls may be at peace and we join with you in these difficult times."

Clashes took place across Venezuela April 30-May 2 after opposition leader Juan Guaidó urged protests against Maduro.

Guaidó, head of the opposition-controlled legislature, the National Assembly, declared himself interim president in January and has been recognized by a number of Western governments, but has been largely unable to secure the support of Venezuela's military.

Both supportors and opponents of Maduro have been on the streets in Venezuelan cities since Guaidó's call on Tuesday. The military responded to opponents in violent clashes, firing tear gas, and by arresting peaceful demonstrators.

Maduro said he had stopped an "attempted coup."

Guaidó has called for continuing protests, and announced a series of strikes beginning May 2.

Cardinal Porras said May 1 that "peaceful protest is a legitimate right guaranteed by all the international agreements. We repudiate and denounce before the international community the unjustified repression in Venezuela by the national police corps and armed groups firing on unarmed civilians."  

He also addressed the May 1 attack on Our Lady of Fatima parish in San Cristóbal by the Venezuelan National Guard.

"The direct attack on our churches, without any respect for the parishioners, is inconceivable. We demand the Catholic Church be respected, in a country of devotees and believers, who are praying daily for peace, respect for life and the right to protest," he said on Twitter.

The Justice and Peace Commission of the Venezuelan bishops' conference has repudiated the violence that the government is using against the demonstrators, as well as "the attacks on freedom of the press in which 12 workers were the victims of different kinds of violence, five reporters wounded by rubber bullets, a station robbed and and at least three media cut off the air."

In its May 2 communique, The Lord saw and was aggrieved because there was no justice, the bishops' justice and peace commission demanded of the National Guard and other officials "due respect and the guarantee of human rights, the irrevocable cessation of the criminal use of lethal force for the control of demonstrations and the immediate liberation of those arbitrarily detained."

Under Maduro's socialist administration, Venezuela has been marred by violence and social upheaval, with severe shortages and hyperinflation leading 3 million to emigrate.

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