Venezuelan Bishops: Maduro’s Presidency Is ‘Illegitimate’

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro brandishes a sabre while delivering a speech during the ceremony of recognition by the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB), at the Fuerte Tiuna Military Complex, in Caracas on January 10, 2019. - Maduro begins a new term that critics dismiss as illegitimate, with the economy in …
FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images

The Venezuelan bishops have denounced President Maduro’s new term in office as “illegitimate,” warning it ushers in an era of arbitrary rule in violation of the nation’s constitution.

In a powerful statement this week, the bishops said that the convocation to elect the President of the Republic last May 20 was illegitimate as was the Constituent National Assembly established by the executive authority. “We are faced with arbitrary rule, without respect for the guarantees laid down in the Constitution or the highest principles of the dignity of the people,” they said.

As a result, “the claim to be initiating a new presidential term of office on 10 January 2019 is illegitimate in its origin and opens the door to the non-recognition of the government, since it lacks democratic support in justice and law,” they said.

The bishops declared that in the present crisis, “the National Assembly, elected by the free and democratic vote of the Venezuelan people, is currently the sole organ of public authority with the legitimacy to exercise its powers with sovereignty.”

Dictator Nicolás Maduro declared himself the winner of last May’s election against a fellow socialist after having banned opposition parties from taking place in the election. The election was widely dismissed as fraudulent and marred by record low turnout.

Maduro was sworn in for a second term in office Thursday by Supreme Court president Maikel Moreno, in a ceremony boycotted by the European Union, the United States, and Venezuela’s South American neighbors.

In their statement, the Venezuelan bishops said that their beleaguered nation is “crying out” for a “restoration of the Rule of Law, according to the Constitution, and the rebuilding of Venezuelan society in dignity, freedom and justice for all.”

The “extremely grave situation” currently reigning in the country is marked by “violations of human dignity, the disrespect of the common good and the manipulation of truth,” the bishops said.

All human authority is transitory, and if it is legitimate in its exercise, it leads to a collective well-being, with special attention to the poor and excluded, thereby achieving a state of healthy coexistence in plurality and diversity.

“The Venezuelan people are living through a critical and extremely grave situation on account of the deterioration in respect for their rights and their quality of life, added to a growing poverty and the lack of anyone to whom they can turn,” they said.

Maduro’s efforts to maintain power at all costs, prolonging chaos and inefficiency, is “a sin crying out to heaven,” they said.

“God does not will that the people should suffer by being subjected to injustices,” the bishops said. “Hence it is urgently necessary to heed the popular clamour for change, for a united effort to achieve the transition that has been hoped for and sought by the overwhelming majority.”

The prelates also call on all Venezuelans to reject the temptation of sitting by as spectators of what is happening in the country, summoning them to action.

“The defence of liberty has cost much blood and many sufferings, to view from outside what the majority rejects: the politics of hunger, political persecution military and political repression, political prisoners, torture, corruption, inefficiency and ineffectiveness in public administration,”they said.

“As citizens and as institutions it is up to us to assume the responsibilities that belong to us to improve the present situation and rescue the country, with its values and potentialities,” they said. “This demands the involvement of all sectors of society, in encouraging creativity and proactivity on the part of many people in the search for solutions.”

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