Venezuela’s Bishops Ask Leaders to Think of Their People

Venezuela’s Bishops Ask Leaders to Think of Their People

… as usually happens, the poor and the most vulnerable have been the ones harmed …

Wikimedia Commons/Jonathan Alvarez C

The Venezuelan Episcopal Conference has raised its voice once again to be an echo “of the clamor of our people, especially the great popular masses, which from morning to night have been left practically without resources or power of acquisition, in order to obtain the necessary means for their nourishment, transport, medicines and to cover their daily necessary expenses.”

In a communique published December 17, the Bishops stated that the “recent measures of an economic and monetary nature implemented by the National Government have exacerbated the crisis that scourges our nation and all the citizens.” They referred to the measure taken by President Nicolas Maduro, who decided to take out of circulation 100 Bolivar bills, those of highest value up to then, and which represent almost half of all <the bills> circulating in the country. On Saturday the 17th, the President announced the temporal suspension of the measure. The bill became legal again, as the new bills of higher denomination, which were supposed to replace it, had not arrived yet from abroad.

In this connection, the Bishops pointed out that to remove the bill of highest denomination (100 bolivars) at this moment of the year from circulation, and the hasty way of implementing the measure have caused great trouble to the whole population and caused indignation, rejection and violence. So, “what was thought from the highest spheres of government that would be a measure to begin resolving the economic crisis was reverted against the simplest people.” Hence, the Bishops lament that “as usually happens, the poor and the most vulnerable have been the ones harmed by the decisions taken.” In fact, “also large popular sectors – peasants, workers, heads of families – who do not have bank accounts, have been greatly harmed and left to God’s goodness.” The Bishops added that there “is great uncertainty in the people as they do not know what will happen with their money and their savings.” This could, in addition, “generate violence and disturbances,” they warned.

The people in long queues who with a minimum of hope were awaiting an answer or ways of solution have felt unprotected  by all the political leaders. “The Government has carried out terrible and precipitate measures that harm everyone, without taking into account that they are servants of a people who are truly suffering the contempt of all the political leaders,” stressed Venezuela’s Prelates.

Moreover, they acknowledge that except “for some individual leaders, the Opposition delayed too long in pronouncing itself collectively in this respect.” In walking through communities “we hear many criticisms of all the country’s political leaders, which is extremely dangerous,” they noted. Many men and women “express their feelings of frustration and abandonment on the part of those who should be facing the consequences of what they are doing and promoting just solutions.”

The Bishops also lamented that “groups and mafias exist that hoard, engage in overpricing and now pretend to be the first in being attended to regarding the change and deposit of the money that is being taken out of circulation.” Therefore, “as Pastors of our people,” the Bishops want to “ratify our closeness to them and our determined option for the poorest.” So they invite the people, ”without taking recourse to violence” to “protest their unhappiness peacefully as well as to demand the right to be heard and attended.” Whereas they invite all the political, economic and social leaders to be “on the people’s side and to seek in agreement with them, solutions that benefit all.”

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“A theory that makes profit the exclusive norm and ultimate end of economic activity is morally unacceptable. The disordered desire for money cannot but produce perverse effects. It is one of the causes of the many conflicts which disturb the social order. A system that ‘subordinates the basic rights of individuals and of groups to the collective organization of production’ is contrary to human dignity. Every practice that reduces persons to nothing more than a means of profit enslaves man, leads to idolizing money, and contributes to the spread of atheism. ‘You cannot serve God and mammon’”(CCC: 2424).

“The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modern times with ‘communism’ or ‘socialism’. She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of ‘capitalism,’ individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor. Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for ‘there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market.’ Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended” (CCC:2425).