DAILY CATHOLIC     WEDNESDAY     November 11, 1998     vol. 9, no. 221

NEWS & VIEWS
from a CATHOLIC perspective

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VENEZUELA BISHOPS PRAISE ELECTIONS AS RENEWAL OF DEMOCRACY

          CARACAS (CWNews.com) - The Catholic Bishops of Venezuela "want to renew our commitment to preserve and strengthen democracy in our country, especially this critical moment," said Bishop Jose Sanchez Porras today, after the country completed the first round of national elections.

          On Sunday Venezuelans voted in the first step of a three-stage democratic process that will have reach its climax on December 6, when a new president and legislature will be elected. The November 8 balloting resulted in the election of state governors.

          Sunday's elections confirmed the rising political influence of retired Colonel Hugo Chavez and his coalition of independent movements, which won control over 9 Venezuelan states, defeating the traditional Social Democratic Party, which won in 8. Chavez has been the focus of some criticism from the country's Catholic hierarchy.

          Bishop Sanchez Porras, the secretary general of the Venezuelan bishops' conference, read a statement lauding "the achievements of these 40 years," which were described "a heritage that we all have to preserve, enrich, and deepen."

          "The Church in Venezuela, which has always been close to the democratic process, rejects the totalitarian temptation and commits her effort to strengthen a true democracy and to promote to responsible and calm completion of the current process," the bishops said.

          The bishops have criticized Chavez -- who in 1992 failed in his attempt to organize a military coup -- for his sharp criticism of the democratic process. Last week Chavez tried to ease tensions with the Catholic Church by holding a meeting with Archbishop Ignacio Velazco of Caracas.

          The bishops have also expressed concern over press reports suggesting that the military leadership would not accept the election of Chavez -- implying that if the man who once tried to organize a coup is elected by popular ballot, he in turn might be overthrown by a military coup, putting an end to the longest record of democratic rule in South America.

          In an obvious reference to the threats from the military, the bishops said: "We trust in the democratic vocation of our armed forces, which will respect the people's will and will walk with the Venezuelan people along the path of deepening the nation's democracy."


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Nov 11, 1998       volume 9, no. 221
NEWS & VIEWS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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