On March 30, Guaidó charged that the Maduro regime had unleashed a new wave of harassment against his close collaborators. Andrea Bianchi, the wife of close associate Rafael Rico, was kidnapped, beaten and then left naked on a highway. Two others, Rómulo García and Víctor Silio were also picked up and later charged with possession of marijuana and a handgun.
The NGO Venezuelan Program for Education-Action in Human Rights reported that during the state of emergency, 34 people have been arbitrarily arrested and attacks against politicians, journalists and healthcare workers have increased.
"The bishops have always strongly criticized the political repression by the government and once again I call for the release of all political prisoners. They are even in greater physical danger because of the pandemic situation we're going through," Urosa stressed.
On March 26, "the Trump administration unsealed sweeping indictments against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and members of his inner circle on narcoterrorism charges, a dramatic escalation in the U.S. campaign to force the authoritarian socialist from power," even offering "a $15 million reward for information leading to his capture or conviction," the Washington Post reported.
In response, the Maduro regime activated a plan against the Venezuelan opposition called "Operation Bolivarian Fury."
The archbishop emeritus denounced these recent "threats of violence by the government against Venezuelans. Maduro himself has spoken of a supposed 'Bolivarian fury' as a threat against members of the Venezuelan opposition in case of international problems. That's illegal, unconstitutional and unacceptable from every point of view. That threat of violence is intolerable."
The cardinal said the government has used the quarantine simply as an opportunity to strengthen its social and political control.
On April 25, the Maduro regime placed shipping containers on the Caracas-La Guaira highway to prevent demonstrators from other cities who have been protesting the shortages of food, water and electricity in other cities from getting to the capital.
"Why restrict the right to free transit?" the cardinal asked.
The Maduro regime also blocked the highway in February 2019 to prevent humanitarian aid from entering the country from Colombia.
Guaidó charged April 24 on Twitter that "a dictatorship of corrupt and incapable people has brought us to a crisis where farmers are losing their crops while families are starving to death in the barrios. They turned the richest country in the region into a hell. They'll leave here, the sacrifice has been enough already."
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
As signs of hope, Urosa pointed to ongoing work of Caritas Venezuela and the creative ways the clergy has reached out to the faithful through social media. "Our message is one of encouragement, trust in God, solidarity and hope in this dark hour," he said.
Catholics "have an unshakeable faith in God who is love," who had died and risen and "has shown us the merciful face of God." "We'll come out of this," the archbishop said, "the suffering we are experiencing has united us closer to God and opens to us the gates of heaven."
The archbishop encouraged Venezuelans to always stand in solidarity with each other and "to be the face of God to those in need. God is love and is with us. Let us join ourselves to him and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy in this painful hour."
A version of this story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been adapted by CNA.