Cardinal says Venezuela must take blame for 10 election-related deaths

IMAGE: CNS photo/Garcia Rawlins, Reuters

By Cody Weddle

CARACAS, Venezuela (CNS) —
Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino said the nation’s government must take the blame
for at least 10 deaths related to a controversial election.

“This is the responsibility
of the president of the republic, the high command, and the ministers,” Cardinal
Urosa told the Caracas newspaper El Nacional July 31. “They will have to
explain this to God” and the courts.

Some Venezuelans went to the
polls July 30 to elect members of a Constituent Assembly, a 545-member body charged
with drafting a new constitution for the country.

Venezuelan President Nicolas
Maduro ordered on the vote May 1, but political opposition and church leaders
have questioned the process, which they say overrepresented pro-government
sectors, ensuring a government victory. They have warned that the new
constitution could establish a one-party state. The opposition boycotted the
vote and instead called on its supporters to take to the streets in protest.

“The bishops are unanimous
in their rejection of this new assembly, and we are asking the government to
reconsider,” Cardinal Urosa told Venezuela news station Globovision the
day before the vote.

On July 27, the bishops
reiterated their rejection of the constituent assembly election in a
seven-point communique and urged the country’s armed forces to avoid more
deaths in the streets.

“The primary role of the
armed forces is to maintain peace and order so that all parties can act
rationally and each side can build bridges to overcome the chaos we are living,”
the statement said.

For four months, Venezuelans
have endured continuous anti-government protests that often ended in clashes
with authorities. The conflicts have resulted in at least 125 dead and wounded
nearly 2,000 since protests began in April.

Maduro has said the new
constitution will bring peace while offering few details on how the document
may be structured. Of the more than 500 delegates selected, only a handful are
top government leaders, believed to be those who will lead and make decisions
in the new body. Of the others elected, most are widely unknown rank-and-file Socialist
Party members.

The bishops have warned that the
initiative will only deepen a political and economic crisis in the country.

A three-year economic recession has
resulted in shortages of basic foods and medicines.

“Let us not increase the
suffering and anguish of so many people who want to live in peace,” said
the July 27 statement.

The newly elected constituent
assembly was to be sworn in in early August.

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