July 18, 2006

Venezuela: This Is Why Early Assessments of Political Leaders are Important

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:20 pm

Unfortunately, much of the reason why Venezueal has to endure Hugo Chavez has to do with the ill-advised pass given him by the Catholic Church’s in that country after he was elected in 1998. They should have known better:

Despite his unusual, even demagogic style, the Venezuelan Catholic bishops decided to give Hugo Chavez the benefit of the doubt after he was elected to the country’s presidency on December 1998. In fact, the bishops asked their followers to give Chavez a level of support that was being denied to the new leader by almost every other significant political or economic power bloc in Venezuela.

Despite the fact that Chavez was the same military officer who, in 1992, had engineered an abortive military coup–seeking unsuccessfully to interrupt the workings of South America’s oldest democracy–the bishops were convinced that the ubiquitous corruption plaguing Venezuela posed even greater dangers to democracy than Chavez himself. The graft that pervaded the political system, the bishops had concluded, was being fostered rather than restrained by the bipartisan system; it was time for a change.

….. the bishops put their faith in Chavez’ desire to make bold political changes, and even supported his call for a convention designed to redraw Venezuela’s constitution.

The first tensions between the bishops and the iconoclastic new leader began to appear in November, when that constitutional convention–which Chavez had successfully packed with his own followers, so that he controlled 90 percent of the votes–decided to remove from the country’s constitution the section that specified that the Venezuelan government would protect the life of the human person from the moment of conception.

Fortunately, Chavez essentially lost that battle, but it set the stage for tensions that have only heightened in the eight years Chavez has been in control.

To their credit, Venezuela’s bishops stopped buckling long ago, but they are clearly playing from behind. The latest battle is over education, or actually indoctrination. The fact that the topic is under “discussion” shows how the Church has slowly but surely been losing the power struggle, and how Chavez is consolidating his ever more Castro-like powers:

Venezuelan Archbishop says students should not be made into “political zombies”

Caracas, Jul. 14, 2006 (CNA) – Archbishop Roberto Luckert of Coro expressed is dismay this week over news that the Venezuelan Ministry of Education plans to politicize education and remove religion classes from school curricula, and he called on officials not, “to make our students into political zombies.”

Education Minister Aristobulo Isturiz told reporters recently that the “State should instruct citizens according to its political theory, according to its idea of the Republic” and he announced the implementation of a decree removing religious instruction from schools.

Speaking on Union Radio, Archbishop Luckert said the politicization of schools is “against the constitution which clearly states that education in our country is to be free and respectful of all opinions and ideas and should not impose one point of view and thus turn our kids into a bunch of political zombies.”

“The proposals put forth by different officials, including Aristobulo Isturiz, to politicize education and turn our teachers into agents of indoctrination of a particular political model are constitutionally unacceptable and in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the archbishop said.

How much easier would it have been on Venezuelans if the bishops had opposed Chavez from the very beginning? It isn’s as if the clues to his eventual desire for tyranny weren’t there. Now that he’s in power, it may take more than prayers and speeches to oust him.

I would also suggest if Pope Benedict wishes to leave a legacy, he could do worse than visit Venezuela to remind that country’s people where their loyalties lie. Perhaps he could do for Venezuela what John Paul II did for his native Poland.

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