Constituent Assembly will 'mortgage' Venezuela's future, Vatican says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Ueslei Marcelino, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

CITY (CNS) — In a strongly worded statement, the Vatican called on the
government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to respect the will of the
people and respect the nation’s current constitution.

The Vatican
urged Maduro “to
suspend ongoing initiatives such as the new Constituent Assembly, which,
rather than fostering reconciliation and peace, encourages a climate of tension
and confrontation and mortgages the future,” said a statement released Aug. 4 by the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Elections for seats on the assembly
were held around the country July 30 amid massive protests and international
outcry. Maduro’s push for the assembly, comprised mainly of his supporters and designed to rewrite
the nation’s constitution, has led to violent demonstrations in which
more than 100 people have died.

Vatican’s statement echoed a declaration made by members of the presiding
council of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference who condemned the elections as “unconstitutional
as well as unnecessary, inconvenient and damaging to the Venezuelan

will be a biased and skewed instrument that will not resolve but rather
aggravate the acute problems of the high cost of living and the lack of food
and medicine that the people suffer and will worsen the political crisis we
currently suffer,” the bishops said July 27.

declared victory following the election, claiming high voter turnout. While the government said
that 8 million
citizens voted in favor of establishing the Constituent Assembly, the company that provided voting
machines for the election said the turnout numbers results were tampered with.

to the BBC, Antonio Mugica,
CEO of Smartmatic, announced at a news conference in London July 31 that voter
turnout result estimates were falsified by the country’s National Electoral

The news agency Reuters reported Aug. 2 that it had reviewed official election
documents that stated only 3.7 million votes were registered 30 minutes before
polls were closed.

Two days
after the vote, security forces raided the homes of opposition members Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma. Government
intelligence officials said both men were arrested for violating the terms of their house
arrests, claiming they planned to flee the country after the elections.

concern over the “radicalization and worsening” of the crisis and “the increased number
of dead, wounded and detained,” the Vatican said Pope Francis was
“closely following the situation.”

The pope
“assures his constant prayer for the country and for all Venezuelans,
while inviting the faithful around the world to pray intensely for this
intention,” the Vatican said.

The Vatican
called for a “negotiated solution” that would provide humanitarian
aid, fair elections
and the release of political prisoners, and it appealed for an end to the violence that has plagued
the country.

Holy See addresses an urgent appeal to the whole society to avoid any form of
violence, in particular by inviting the security forces to refrain from the excessive and
disproportionate use of force,” the Vatican statement said.

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Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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