Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Vatican is part of the opposition? 

Someone help me here but aren’t Christians supposed to be on the side of the poor? Appearently not. Witness what a leading “Christian” said as reported here in CNN:

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) -- Venezuela's highest Catholic prelate on Sunday condemned President Hugo Chavez's rule as a dictatorship and urged Venezuelans to reject it in an attack likely to strain already poor church-government ties.

"I am convinced that what we have here is a dictatorship," Cardinal Rosalio Castillo, who is retired, said in a interview published by El Universal newspaper.

He told Venezuelans to use their constitutional right to refuse to recognize the left-wing president on the grounds he was not ruling democratically. Castillo did not elaborate on what actions he thought Venezuelans should take.

But recent opinion polls show nationalist Chavez enjoys the support of a majority of Venezuelans because his self-styled "revolution" is using abundant oil export income to fund free health and education programs and cheap food for the poor.

Castillo said that as he was retired he could not speak officially for Venezuela's Catholic Church. But as cardinal he is the highest-ranking member of the local church hierarchy in the predominantly Catholic South American country.

The cardinal scoffed at a recent assertion by Chavez that his government was following the teaching of Jesus Christ by spending Venezuela's oil wealth to help the poor.

"His goal above all is not to help the poor but to concentrate his power," Castillo said.

Echoing the criticism of Chavez's political foes, Castillo said the president was trying to install Cuban-style communism in the world's No. 5 oil exporter.

Castillo's remarks were published after Chavez complained this week to the Vatican's new ambassador in Caracas that Venezuela's Catholic bishops were opposing his government, which has ruled since he first won elections in 1998. Chavez criticized the bishops as "out of touch with reality."

Chavez won a referendum on his rule last year, and opinion polls predict he will win re-election in late 2006 elections.

Castillo said Chavez maintained a "varnish of democracy" but had accumulated dictatorial powers.

The cardinal said Article 350 of Venezuela's 1999 Constitution allowed citizens to refuse to recognize an elected leader if he violated democratic principles or human rights.

"That's what should be done -- reject this government," he said.

To give some more details beyond what was reported by CNN here are excerpts from the interview with Castillo published in El Universal

Q: In the document the bishops denounce an “unjust legality” and warn that “if we were to pledge our loyalty no to rights and the law, but rather to a determined political project, we will have put an end to the Rule of Law.” Do you believe that there is a Rule of Law in Venezuela despite everything or has it ceased to exist?

A: Allow me to laugh because I have been saying for a long time that here there is neither democracy nor Rule of Law. What we have is a veneer of democracy. Those laws passed by a weak majority, but ultimately a majority, against the Constitution, according to which organic laws need to be passed by a qualified majority, represent neither justice nor right, but rather a means for achieving an oppressive goal. With that meaning in mind I am reminded of the psalm where Jesus reproaches those who commit injustice in the name of the law. Thus we are faced with unjust laws. .

Wow. This man is talented. Not only must we suppose he is a great theologian but also a legal and constitutional scholar too!

Q: You speak of “an oppressive goal.” Do we understand that term to mean a “dictatorship”?

A: Certainly. I am convinced that here we have a dictatorship. Before Chávez was elected I told President Caldera that he (Chávez) was a dangerous man, a rookie dictator. And he (Chávez), right from the start, by his way of expressing himself and acting out, made it clear that at the root of his project was the dictatorship. .

I guess it must have been all the references to “participatory democracy” and putting things like the recall referendum in the Constitution that must have been the dead give away.

Q: Nevertheless, the President told the nuncio that “there has never been a government in Venezuela closer to Christ the Redeemer’s command than the Bolivarian government.”

A: (Laughter). First of all, he aims toward his own goal, which is not to favor the poor but rather the concentration of power. It is clear that the neediest are not benefited by the missions because giving them a handout means keeping, perpetuating, poverty. Thus he stands on a most mistaken premise when he extols his obedience to Christ’s command. On the contrary, I believe that his is the most detestable government that Venezuela has had ever since it exists as a republic.

“The most detestable government that Venezuela has had since it exists as a republic”? Strong words. I guess this Cardinal isn’t very well in touch with most Venezuelans who have clearly stated that Chavez’s government is the best of the democratic era. And giving aid to the poor perpetuates poverty? If that’s the case I guess every social welfare program the world over should be done away with. And I guess he doesn’t have to worry about anyone in the Vatican thinking him an adherent of Liberation Thoelogy.

Q: If, according to what you say, we are already living in a dictatorship, will we have to resign ourselves to staying this way indefinitely? Will there be a people’s rebellion or is it possible to participate in the elections in order to achieve political change?

A: Your questions are highly important and it is hard for me to answer all of them because it would have to be done separately. But the attitude of Venezuelans ought to adhere to Article 350 of the Constitution. That is to say, the Venezuelan people, faithful to their republican tradition and to the struggle for peace, freedom and independence, shall repudiate (that is to say, shall consider non existent, shall not accept) any legislation, regime or authority that goes against democratic values, principles and postulates and undermines human rights. Now, the government's actions are full of all of that. We are in a dictatorship because constitutional principles have been thwarted and laws have been dodged in setting up the National Electoral Council and in naming judges to the Supreme Tribunal of Justice. This has to do with serious violations that would call for repudiation.

Yeah, sure, a government that has had the country in virtually a constant state of elections is “against democratic values”. And as for freedom, it is the freedom guaranteed by the Chavez government that grants Castillo the freedom to say all this non-sense. In effect, he is calling for mass civil disobediance and overthrowing the government - and he is perfectly free to do so. Some dictatorship.

Q: How should that repudiation be carried out?

A: I am not the person authorized, competent, to say how it should be carried out, but it would have to be done. To reject this government. To repudiate it. Of course this is difficult because the other fellow has the power and here were have but ideas.

Translation: organizing coups is not my specialty. Come to think of it, his colleagues who showed up in Miraflores on April 12, 2002 to bless the Carmona dictatorship didn’t do such a great job either.

Q: Don’t you believe that the elections might represent an effective political solution?

A: Elections ought to be a democratic vehicle for solving these situations, but that requires an institution, charged with holding the elections, one that is trustworthy and the National Electoral Council certainly is not. To the contrary, it has been fraudulent ever since it began its activity, which is in violation of the Organic Law on Suffrage. Here we stand before the expression of a false majority created for the referendum and in that sense there will be no elections, but rather a pantomime organized by the State, because who can trust a National Electoral Council such as that one?

A “false majority”. I don’t know, those 5.8 million people who voted for Chavez to continue in office looked pretty real to me. So do all the polls showing the overwhelming majority of Venezuelans approve of the Chavez government and want him to continue in office. And as to trustworthy – yes, yes, the opposition has spent almost a year telling us how untrustworthy the Carter Center and the O.A.S are after they showed that Chavez really did win the Recall Referendum. Personally I have the sneaking feeling that it is the opposition that isn’t trustworthy.

After this Castillo’s interview was published in the papers President Chavez gave him a piece of his mind so to speak. Good for him. Some in the opposition are crying about a Cardinal being told off by the President. Sorry but if you are going to get involved in Venezuelan politics these days you better be able to dish it out AND take it. Certainly Chavez does. Much worse gets said about him every day. And as a famous U.S. politician once said “if you can’t take the heat stay out of the kitchen”.


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