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+++ Venezuela: Mgr. Padrón (Bishops’ president), “international pressure on dictatorship” +++

“The Church is very concerned about the future of the country” which runs the risk of sliding towards “dictatorship” in the wake of the “judicial coup d’état” and the “strong repression against all dissidents and protesters”. In an extensive interview with SIR news agency, Mgr. Diego Padrón Sanchez, Archbishop of Cumanà and President of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, comments on the ongoing clashes in Venezuela that have already resulted in 5 deaths, dozens of injured, and hundreds of arrests. “All those who disagree with the system are persecuted and imprisoned, and risk death”, he says from Cumanà. “There has been a rapid escalation of violence, with dead and injured, because of the government: instead of looking for dialogue and listening to the people, it takes a tough line to stay in power”. “We are accompanying the victims – he says -. Yesterday I met with human rights groups: they are very frightened because they are seen as terrorists by the government, so they asked us for support and advice”. Besides the “colectivos”, the armed pro-government militias, snipers were deployed on the rooftops of public buildings to scare off protesters”, he says. “It is an extremely negative image, which is very scary and clearly shows the attitude of the government”. The Archbishop is convinced that the government “has the means to stay in power for long” and “is unwilling to call an election”. But people’s awareness and participation is rising by the day. Civil society is taking counter-measures and is getting ready to participate more actively”. According to him, the path to follow is that of “international pressure on a government that has turned into a dictatorship” and “support for the people, so that the external pressures are in tune with the internal resistance and attitude of rejection of the government’s practices”. The president of the Bishops’ Conference reports that the Pope and the Holy See are “continuously informed” and “concerned”: but “at present, unlike last year, there are no suitable conditions for trying to re-launch dialogue”.

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