Friday, April 30, 2010

Volver al Cabildo- Let's retun to the Cabildo

The April 19 theme is far from over and not just because Chavez had a ludicrous military parade trying to make it a purely military element. No, there is much more to it as we celebrate our 200 year of our start to Independence. From now until July 5th 2011 we will see more scholarly works about what it means to be a Venezuelan and more brutal vehemence trying to deny what makes us a people.
Ovidio Perez Morales
One of the best articles published on April 19 is an address to President Chavez by one of the most lucid voices of Venezuela, Monsignor Ovidio Perez Morales, reminding us that for all its fault in times of troubles the church has been a powerful factor of change for the best in Latin America.

Since it is in El Nacional by subscription I am putting here the original in Spanish and the interview made by Milagros Socorro which complements it nicely, in Spanish.  Below the translation in English that was sent to me (though I did change a few words).  If you can read Spanish I suggest the original.

A few comments before you read this important positioning of the church in front of the Chavez regime.

Monsignor Morales was as student, it is important to note, of Arias Blanco the Caracas Archbishop in 1957 who announced that the Perez Jimenez regime had to end.  It is to be noted that contrary to most of Latin  American countries the Venezuelan Catholic church never had the involvement in politics that we could find in, say, Colombia or Chile.  This is due to the early secularization of Venezuela government under Guzman Blanco in the second half of the XIX century.  Thus political documents of the Venezuelan church tend to be more spaced in time and carry more weight, inasmuch as you can have some weight in front of the wanna-be totalitarian that Chavez is.

In the document below Ovidio Morales has a way to bring back the meaning of April 19 1810 to the present, simply announcing that Chavez like Emparan then must go back and sit down to discuss the future of the country, whether he likes it. The implication is that of course he risks the same fate of Emparan, to be asked to resign, but also he has the choice of genuinely sit down and negotiate a future for the country where we all have a place at the table, and not only his few close sycophants. For saying less than that some people are now in jail in Venezuela and we must admire the stern postilion of the bishop.  As a personal note I found it quite appropriate to work on this after the Monday post describing what is happening to Judge Afiuni and the Empresas Polar group. For me it reminded that there is still some moral fiber left around.


The admonition to Emparan 

On April 19, 1810, whose bicentennial we have just commemorated, Francisco Salias, interpreting the will of the people, admonished the Captain General Vicente Emparan to return to the Cabildo, the highest representative body of citizens at the time. The City Council had been convened to resolve the national turmoil, following the power crisis that originated in Spain by the Napoleonic intervention. Emparan had been invited to the chapter meeting and knew the purpose of it, but wanted to avoid a decision and therefore went to the Cathedral to attend the liturgical celebration of Holy Thursday.

The City Council, besides its members, gathered at the time deputies, representatives of various sectors of society, accompanied by a growing popular gathering. There was thus an assembly, which in this circumstance should address the political fortunes of Caracas and Venezuela, and, as perceived in this environment, would determine their identity and future as a sovereign people.

The return of the Captain General to the council meant the willingness to face the challenging situation realistically, and respond with openness and clarity to the profound and unavoidable aspirations for freedom and autonomy of the Province of Caracas and much of the Nation. For Emparan, the margin of maneuver was narrow, but his best option was not to avoid responsibility, but to confront the crisis and facilitate a way out, the least traumatic for everyone.

The Council was aware that the agenda of that day was not just the interests that occupied a particular stratum of the population, or only sectoral problems no matter how large they were. What was on the agenda was how to collect, giving them an institutional form, the wishes and purposes of a vast autonomous human group that the Declaration of Independence would call, the following year, "the American Confederation of Venezuela in the southern continent." The body reflected and represented, both rightly and with limitations, a unified national sentiment. This was in a germinal stage, and this feeling would subsequently be translated into socio-economic political and cultural structures consistent with a true unity. At that time, truly, discrimination and exclusion persisted, not only in fact but also in law (a statement that two hundred years later we can humbly repeat recognizing present sins).

With regard to these facts it is appropriate here to bring up what was expressed by the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference in its recent pastoral letter on the Bicentennial: "... between April 19, 1810 and July 5, 1811, the founders of the country took the difficult decision to form the Republic of Venezuela and proclaimed a beautiful national dream, aware of its greatness, the sacrifice involved, as well as the constraints to bring it about.” (Number 4).

"Both April 19 and July 5 were" the document points out, “two events in which civility shone. The authority of intelligence, dialogue, firmness and courage did not have to resort to arms or other force and violence. The wisdom in the exchange of ideas and proposals respectful of dissent fostered a common desire for freedom, equality and fraternity. " (Number 5). Beyond the ambivalence of these events and subsequent processes, the major tangible result was our birth as an independent country and the will to "... to achieve forms of coexistence and freedom for all people without exclusion ... a primary but imperfect aspiration." (Number 9).

Two hundred years later 

Indeed, in commemorating its Bicentenary Venezuela recognizes the limits of such dream and aspiration, since if "they were all included by right in the hope and the blessing of God invoked to ... a way of conviviality… that might be a scope of life, freedom and dignity for all, in fact ... the vast majority of the popular sectors was excluded " (id.), but also, after starting in 1998 ... a project ... to "recast" the republic ... (whose) ambition not only touches the material and organizational fabric ... but also and above all affects the inner, spiritual depth, of the national soul "(id. 20), the country is today in the first instance, a country torn apart, that bleeds and involutes. To say this is not in any way to be a "prophet of regrets and misfortunes" or ignoring the positivity of the very existence of the national community both as a melting pot of races and peoples, as of the values and achievements recorded on account of its peregrination. It means, yes, to remember responsibly, knocking to the conscience of all my brothers for a "wake up and react," while facing the serious crisis that threatens and summons us.

Without pretending, of course, to be exhaustive, I point out some salient features of this crisis:

1. Venezuela, in effect, is no longer one either as a dream or as a living experience. For political and ideological reasons it has been artificially divided. At least half of it is qualified as stateless and even unpatriotic, and by decree it is to be excluded from full enjoyment of citizenship rights. How will we celebrate as a national holidays, in a democratic manner, the birthday of a Republic whose unity is denied? It is no longer considered the common house that our founders dreamed of: ample, welcoming, tolerant, peaceful, fraternal, but the closed, exclusive, unique enclosure of a Manichaean sect. Not longer the great family but a harsh environment for rejection, an apartheid that has been overcome elsewhere. Human rights no longer belong to all humans!  

2. Neither is Venezuela, nowadays, pluralistic. Some do not want it to be a haven to a diverse people, multicolored, multicultural, where those that are different and even the unruly have their place. Although the 2007 referendum said NO to the proposal to convert the Republic into a "socialist state" because it contradicted "the Constitution, and a correct concept of person and State", those in power persist in carrying out this design. And thus, they disobey the mandate expressed in the referendum and continue to impose by actions and "laws" such a system. The Constitution, in effect, is being violated. Even more, no effort is being made to hide neither its ad hoc interpretation nor its utilitarian function as a bulwark of the "socialist" project, thus radically distorting its original and authentic purposes. Therefore, what is truly at stake is the legality of the regime. The process of dependence of all powers on a single one of global nationalization, of a nominally communal centralization, of a massifying hegemony, speeds its way in the various economic, political and ethical-cultural fields. Democracy is, for now, tolerated, but it is harassed, gradually, by a "revolutionary" voluntarism of autocratic and "messianic" vocation, ignoring or distorting the rights of men.

3. Venezuela is no longer a context for life. We are a country guilty of a monstrous hemorrhage. We occupy prominent place in the world in terms of violence and crime. Our streets are the scene of unreported crime and impunity; our morgues, crowded places of painful sharing; our courts, grounds of unfairness or of venal corruption or politicization; our jails enclosures of inhumanity, the antithesis of rehabilitation, lobbies of death. All this was not totally new, but it has been exacerbated exponentially, as the government, in word and deed, when it disqualifies sows violence, insults, threats and discrimination; when it exhibits and increases its warring arsenal, radicalizes militarization of the population and emphasizes the repression of dissent. The slogan "Fatherland, socialism or death" is the corresponding slogan for a necrophilic militarism of tragic historical memory. There are those who, facing the rampant and unrestrained insecurity, have posed the question of whether this corresponds to a State policy intending that death and fear lead to a paralysis that facilitates the submission of citizenship.

4. Venezuela is no longer a “developing nation”. We have a petro-capitalism of State, with targeted donations abroad and populism inside. Ideological-political reasons and the consolidation of power trump the real needs and aspirations of the people. All this, coupled with ineffective, inefficient and fraudulent management, is leading to falling domestic production, supply and consumption, compounded by an unprecedented but predictable crisis of electrical and water services, forming a picture of deprivation and dependency, objectively also working in favor of  the "Project" of concentration and control.

5. Venezuela is no longer respected in its soul and identity. Subjectivity and centrality, morality and spirituality of the human person are diluted, in order to privilege the material basis of production and the mere structurally collective, literally "alienating". There is talk of re-founding the country. On what values? "Socialism of the XXI century" (of increasing Marxist-Leninist reference and with a confessed Castro-communist model) stands as the supreme end and criterion, is made absolute and sanctifies the "Revolution", made into established regime, making it the final standard of truth and goodness. All this tends to be personified in the top leader, irrefutable, indisputable, irreplaceable, and omnipotent. Within this frame, symbols are reformulated, remaking historical memory and decreeing partnerships or associations with other States, regardless of national and popular sentiments; media are monopolized, education is restructured, lies become anti-culture, art is redefined, religion instrumentalized.

Back to the Cabildo 

On the occasion of the Bicentennial celebration on April 19, I believe it is, therefore, for me an urgent matter of conscience, as a citizen, a believer and a bishop, to return to the interpellation of Francisco Salias to admonish commander Hugo Chávez Frías: Citizen President, "go back to the Cabildo"!

I make this call to you with due respect for the investiture and function, but also with clarity and sincerity that is required, from my faithfulness to God and my conscience, to serve Venezuela. I do that, with the hope of a believer, knowing that God loves us all, without exception, and in all circumstances helps us to rebuild paths for the greater good of our neighbor. I am also not judging intentions—a matter corresponding only to God—nor thinking of myself without responsibility for the ills of the country. I do it, finally, without claiming infallibility in my findings. I only must and want to serve.

What does "back to the Council" mean today? First of all, it is not a matter of a "mechanical or anachronistic" return to disappeared forms or institutions, or historically dated, but a creative fidelity, a critical memory, a conscious awakening, a hopeful dream.

In a few points I will synthesize what I understand by that.

1. Going back to the unity of the country. This unity could not be ethereal or a pseudo-bucolic harmony, nor asphyxiating and monolithic uniformity or massifying homogeneity, but a plural and diverse sharing. This forces us to promote the effective participation of all individual and groups concerned; to promote solidarity that integrates and the subsidiarity that stimulates and combines the activity of intermediate social bodies, linking it with the task of the State, for the sake of common good and its climax: peace in justice and truth. This recalls and demands, in the near and concrete, the settlement of an outstanding debt to our historical memory and an integral responsibility towards real men and women fallen, mutilated, exiled, imprisoned or acquitted, convening a committee of truth about the events of April 2002. It is a task of priority for a President, indeed, to find cohesion, the fellowship of all citizens above distinction of any kind, working towards a joint and shared responsibility to achieve material progress and moral and spiritual development of the nation. The Head of State is for all Venezuelans, not for a "project", ideology or party, but for one and the same country. Nothing should be more present in the Presidential role than preaching and acting to convene, congregate, all for whom he is, in turn, the agent and server (and who, if pragmatically considered, are also taxpayers who pay the presidential expenses).

The return to unity is to turn towards people in pursue of a peaceful coexistence, lively and colorful. This involves breaking the confinement and polarization in the self, or an idea or sect. Ridding the country of the symbol par excellence of all official hegemony, that arbitrary abduction of time and privacy of the sovereign people: the "cadenas."(1) Opening to share the concerns of citizens and the entire community, to peaceful dialogue and respectful discussion, which would have symbolic expression in an urgent national reconciliation initiative and the civilized debate of a multicolor "town hall" (Assembly, governors, mayors, Communes).

2. Return to Venezuela as a context for life. Let’s recall that the first instinct is that of conservation and the human primary right is to life. The first task of a society is to preserve and protect the survival of its members. The first duty of a State is to ensure and promote the physical, mental and moral health of citizens. Hence the necessity and urgency of the promotion of a culture of life, against the proliferation of a many-rooted anti-culture of death. In their communication On violence and insecurity, published as a result of its latest plenary session, the bishops said that "It is the duty of citizens to demand from the authorities of the State, especially the government, to create the conditions necessary for the right to life, physical integrity, protection of property, free movement, among others, becoming rights to everyone. Currently, the response to social violence is fear, which leads us to shut ourselves and protect ourselves, to distrust everyone. Every man for himself as possible, seems to be the watchword before a lazy and complicit state "(Number 12). Back to life is conceding priority to and resolutely defending the integral life of Venezuelans, of all the crime-weary countrymen, irreducible in the face of impunity, activists against any disqualifying and excluding arrogance, which aims to criminalize legally recognized expressions or disqualify court guaranteed claims. Back to life is to recognize others as human beings created in the image and likeness of God and bearers, therefore, of inalienable rights, deservers of respect for their physical and moral integrity; it is the promotion and defense of their inalienable rights, solidarity on their behalf, especially if they are poor and needy; it is to work for brotherhood and peace, on the basis of truth and goodness. He who presides over the Republic in this task has a major responsibility and the role of a protagonist in this endeavor. Thus, he must come nearer with loving simplicity to real people, with their successes and frustrations, joys and sorrows, their inalienable human rights, their deeply felt desire to live in peace and security, without constant shocks and anxiety, without an exhausting and permanent tone of militarist verbal confrontation and nihilism, or social initiatives in warmonger proclamations.

3. Back to progress within the framework of the Constitution. The Venezuelan people have given it to themselves as an expression of its sovereignty; it illustrates and ensures the rule of law for all, the legal stability of the institutions and the integral welfare of the Nation. The Constitution provides, in its text, a regulatory framework for both the citizenry in exercising their rights and duties, human and civic, and for the State and its organs, servers of the former; and in its spirit it embodies the fundamental consensus for coexistence, the social compact of shared principles and values. There is an urgent need to rescue her, not only as a "law of laws" and paradigm of all legality, but also to upgrade the humanizing function, radically ethical, of law. Under Article 2 of our Constitution, "Venezuela is a democratic and social state of law and justice, which holds as superior values of its legal system and its performance, life, freedom, justice, equality, solidarity, democracy, social responsibility and in general, the preeminence of human rights, ethics and political pluralism. " On these fundamental principles must be built and shared the overall progress that the country needs, which also requires the participation of all citizens, groups and social entities, whose initiative it is essential to host and promote while avoiding exclusion and combining efforts.

4. Return to Venezuela. Appreciating its roots, remembering, self-critically but faithfully, realistically and comprehensively, its past; accepting humbly that we are the heirs of "heroes and villains”, not pretending to arbitrarily reconstruct family trees, practicing anti-historical jumps or violating biographies or messages from the ancestors. We cannot pretend to relaunch the country, while passing over the identity of the people, emptying the national soul of its spiritual and religious experiences, underestimating the natural neighborhood and our cultural physiognomy to prioritize strange bedfellows, copying already-failed ideological-political models, distant from the Venezuelan idiosyncrasy and its real interests. Back to Venezuela also entails our preoccupation, above all, for one's own nation, not falling into that of "light in the square and dark in the house." International solidarity must be free from crypto-imperialistic temptations favored by oil power, on the one hand, and neocolonialist relapses by ideological restraints, on the other. Venezuela is and has to be everyone's common house and the field of fraternal welcome.

"Back to the Council" requires as a priority and patent fashion, that you assume responsibility as President of the Republic. This delicate position involves listening and commitment to all Venezuelans, working towards their union on behalf of the national common good. Nothing more inconsistent with this, than an identification, implicit or explicit—and, worse, when it is displayed—with only one sector of the population, ignoring and marginalizing others, based on ideological and political reasons, racial, religious or of any other genre. The President is this, indeed, when it respects the citizens "not in spite of" but precisely “because of” their differences, convivially in the understandable and inevitable diversity of a democratic, pluralistic society. [he is] When he reaps the gratitude of all: those who elected him and those who did not vote for him or oppose him but that, in any case, should and need to feel in him sensitivity, closeness, humanity, as their Chairman. Otherwise, the legitimacy of his tenure as president is at stake.

This "back to the Council" Citizen President, could only lead the country to the joy of reunion of the Venezuelans, with the hope of logical results: shared progress, observance of justice and law, fraternal solidarity, stable peace, and a culture of civility.

As a Christian I pray for you, so that, overcoming obstacles and not letting yourself being deterred by difficulties, prejudices and interests, past and present, you can contribute effectively, from your high responsibility to redirect this nation on the path of unity, truth and peace, which Jesus Christ emphasized at the Last Supper, a religious perspective, in its maximum value, and Simon Bolivar underlined in his last message, as a condition for strength and progress of our peoples. Mr. President, return to the Council!

Caracas, April 24 2010

1) Cadena:literally, chain. This the name for the compulsory retransmission of government broadcasts by every private radio and TV stations, which the present President of Venezuela insistently and frequently employs.


  1. 1979 Boat People11:51 AM


    You wrote:

    From now until July 5th 1811...


  2. Anonymous8:42 PM

    Este Monseñor si sabe, ojalá todos lo escuchemos. Ayer leía en un "Zeta" de hace algunas semanas una entrevista de Poleo con Ballesteros, se llama "Plomo Parejo" uno de los temas era sobre la manera de gobernar del Presidente, entre otras cosas no muy alagadoras decian que se parece a un niño jugando con la nación, sin ton ni son, esto si es peligroso.La Maga Lee


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