– The bishops of Venezuela have voiced support for peaceful opposition demonstrations across the country Wednesday. At one of these marches in Caracas, opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president.
Guaido is head of the National Assembly, the opposition-controlled legislature. He pledged a transitional government and free elections.
Soon afterwards U.S. president Donald Trump said he recognized Guaido as president, saying the National Assembly is the sole “legitimate branch of government” in Venezuela and that Nicolas Maduro’s presidency is “illegitimate.” Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and Costa Rica have also reportedly recognized Guaido.
Since Maduro succeeded Hugo Chávez as president of Venezuela in 2013, the country has been marred by violence and social upheaval. Under the socialist government, the country has seen severe shortages and hyperinflation, and millions have emigrated.
Earlier this month, the bishops called illegitimate Maduro’s swearing in for a second term as president. Maduro won a May 2018 presidential election which was boycotted by the opposition and has been rejected by much of the international community.
The Jan. 23 marches were convoked by the National Assembly, which the Venezuelan bishops’ conference’s Justice and Peace Commission said was “elected by the free and democratic vote of the Venezuelan people” and “is currently the sole organ of public authority with the legitimacy to exercise its powers with sovereignty.”
The commission also demanded that “the diverse bodies of state security respect the citizens demonstrating today,” citing their right to be free from “violent repression, arbitrary detentions, cruel treatment, and the use of firearms and toxic substances to control peaceful demonstrations.”
In addition, the bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission urged “the Catholic people and men and women of good will to pray for Venezuela at this time, that the constitutional order is restored and we achieve a spiritually and materially prosperous nation.”
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