The Catholic Bishops of Venezuela  have released a strong statement on the State of the Nation, describing it as “a critical and extremely grave situation on account of the deterioration of rights and quality of life, added to a growing poverty and the lack of anyone to whom they can turn”.

The statement was read by Archbishop José Luis Azuaje, President of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference on the occasion of the 111th Ordinary Assembly which closes today, Friday 11 January.

“As shepherds”, the Bishops said “we have the duty to ask ourselves certain questions regarding the ethical aspects of the extremely grave situation we are currently living through.”

“We Venezuelans cannot simply be spectators of what is happening in our country. The defence of liberty has cost much blood and many sufferings, the politics of hunger, political persecution military and political repression, political prisoners, torture, corruption, inefficiency and ineffectiveness in public administration”.

The Bishops described as “illegitimate”,  the convocation of 20 May (to elect the President of the Republic), the Constituent National Assembly established by the executive authority and the initiation of a new presidential term of office on 10 January 2019, since it lacks democratic support in justice and law.”

“It is a sin crying out to heaven to seek to maintain power at all costs and presume to prolong the chaos and inefficiency of the last few decades. This is morally unacceptable!”, the statement said.

Asking the question, “who will God bless in the present critical situation in Venezuela? The Bishops called on all people of goodwill to respond to their plight.

“The answer that Jesus gives us is clear, profound and challenging: “Come, you blessed of my Father… for I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me to drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me” (Mt 25:34-36). This is a pressing question for all people of goodwill, and the response to it should move us to effective action”, they said.

Since Nicolas Maduro succeeded Hugo Chávez as President of Venezuela in 2013, the country has been marred by violence and social upheaval. Poor economic policies, including strict price controls, coupled with high inflation rates estimated at 1.3 million percent resulting in a severe lack of basic necessities such as toilet paper, milk, flour, diapers and medicines.

An estimated 3 million people have fled the country since 2014.