Venezuelan bishops oppose law giving more power to Chavez


The bishops of Venezuela are standing behind Cardinal Jorge Urosa of Caracas and his criticisms of the country's President Hugo Chavez.

Cardinal Urosa recently charged that Chavez is working to “install a Marxist regime” by enacting “laws that are contrary to the Constitution and the 2007 referendum.”

Archbishop Ubaldo Santana of Maracaibo denounced the laws passed by Venezuela's government in the last two legislative sessions, including the controversial Law of Empowerment. The recently passed law grants Chavez the authority to rule by decree, as “contrary to the spirit and letter of the Constitution.” 

The archbishop's remarks came during his opening address of the 95th ordinary assembly of Venezuela's bishops' conference.

He said the bishops’ conference would continue to issue moral judgments about political issues that “affect human rights,” and he lamented that the Venezuelan state has questioned “the right of the bishops and the Church to participate in the political life of the country.”

Archbishop Santana also highlighted the actions of Caritas during the recent torrential rains that pounded Venezuela, noting that communities across the country were assisted through the efforts of the Catholic organization, “thanks to coordinated action that involved priests and the faithful.”

Caritas delivered 180 tons of food, 2,000 hygiene kits, 37 tons of water, 100 sleeping mats and many other supplies to the flood victims.

The archbishop said the bishops’ conference will continue to work to create stronger fraternal bonds in the county and to foster open dialogue despite the position of the government. 

The Law of Empowerment

Chavez asked the National Assembly Dec. 10 to pass a law that would grant him power to rule by decree in order to address the crisis caused by the heavy rainfall. On Dec. 17, the assembly passed the measure and gave Chavez 18 months to enact laws by decree on territorial regulation, public and legal security issues, transportation and public services. 

The law also gave him authority over finances and taxes, rural and urban land use and development, international cooperation and emergency aid for the flooding crisis. 

Opposition leaders are concerned that the new law will allow Chavez to restrict the freedom of his critics.

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