Venezuelan Episcopate Offers to Mediate National Reconciliation

Economic and Political Problems Besieging Country

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CARACAS, Venezuela, JULY 15, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Venezuela's Catholic bishops have offered their mediation to achieve national reconciliation in this troubled country.



At the end of the plenary assembly of the bishops' conference, the country's prelates last Wednesday published an exhortation offering their help.

The document comes at a time of national strain. Poverty is spreading, the credibility of public powers has weakened, and there are repeated calls for President Hugo Chávez's resignation.

Several hundred thousand Venezuelans turned out for a demonstration here Thursday, the biggest anti-government march since the April 11-14 coup, Reuters reported.

The bishops say this nation of about 23.9 million is polarized, "with extremes that are mutually exclusive," even though the vast majority of Venezuelans want peace and coexistence.

"Without a state of law and independent public powers, there is no democracy nor are human rights guaranteed," the episcopate warned.
This "extremely serious national picture" obliges all Venezuelans to make "an exceptional effort" to avoid falling into an ungovernable situation, and urges commitment to reconciliation and the construction of a more-just society, the bishops said.

The key way to achieve this objective is dialogue, for which the government is primarily responsible, they added. Their message urged the government to conduct public affairs "in an impartial way."

Positions of authorities must also be renewed and legitimized "according to mechanisms established in the national Constitution," the bishops added.

The message further called for a "truth commission" to be established, to clarify the events that convulsed the country last April. Chávez was briefly ousted during the short-lived coup.

The bishops also said that an end to intolerance and armed conflict, and a reconciliation within the armed forces, are necessary if the nation's crisis is to be surmounted.

The episcopate offered to help bring together all sectors of national life. "We do not ask any one to renounce his convictions, but, rather, to channel them constructively within a democratic framework, appreciating and respecting the life and dignity of others," the message said.