Catholic Church blasts Venezuela Gov't for 'brutal repression'
Venezuela's Roman Catholic Church accused today President Nicolas Maduro's government of "totalitarian" tendencies and "brutal repression" of demonstrators during two months of political unrest that has killed several dozen people.
The surprisingly strong attack is likely to revive church-state tensions that were constant during the 14-year socialist rule of Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chavez.
Monsignor Diego Padron, who heads Venezuela's conference of bishops, said the "principal cause" of the crisis was the government's attempt to implant a blueprint for government that Chavez left behind called "the fatherland plan."
"Within it they are hiding the promotion of a totalitarian-style system of government, putting in doubt its democratic credentials," he said, reading a church communique.
Though defending students' and others' right to protest, the Church condemned both the demonstrators' tactic of barricading roads and the state's "brutal repression" of dissidence.
Until today, Venezuela's church had kept a relatively low profile over the recent unrest, and both sides had been mooting the possibility of mediation by a Vatican official.
The 39 fatalities have included government supporters, protesters and members of security forces.
"The government is wrong to want to solve the crisis by force," the Church statement added. "The solution is clear: sincere dialogue between the government and all sectors."