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Venezuela's Catholic Church critical of secrecy surrounding health of Hugo Chavez

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 8th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The status of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's health has been closely guarded over the past year. Flown to Cuba for surgery for an unspecified cancer, reports have been vague and unclear. The Venezuelan Catholic Church has since criticized the government for failing to provide more details about Hugo Chavez's state of health. The church's leaders have also issued a warning about any attempts to circumvent constitution.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "At stake are the good of the country and the defense of ethics. To alter the constitution to attain a political objective is morally unacceptable," Venezuela's conference of bishops said.

Chavez, who is reported recovering in Cuba from cancer surgery, is supposed to take the oath of office for another six year term in the next couple of days.

His vice president has argued that the swearing-in can be delayed indefinitely, calling it a "formality," and that his current administration can continue in office until a new one can be sworn in.

One key leader in the opposition has called for street protests if the government pushes past the January 10 inauguration date set by the constitution without the president being sworn in.

"People should get ready to protest and rebel against what will be a failure to uphold the constitution," Julio Borges, national coordinator of the opposition Justice First party declared.

"We are preparing a real campaign, which will involve going to institutions, countries, embassies and organizations outside of the country to let them know that authorities are trying to twist the constitution due to an internal problem."

In a statement, the church said the president's prolonged sickness "puts at grave risk the political and social stability of the nation."

They say that the public is "confused, and a good part of it angry," as not a single medical report on his condition has been released.

"The government has not told the people the whole truth, which it has the full right to receive with certitude; it has only communicated, with evident difficulty, its political truth."

Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro warned the church "not to fall into the temptations of the past, but on the contrary to support the stability, tranquility and progress of the country."

Chavez, the 58-year-old former paratrooper who has led the nation for 14 years, has not been seen in public since he underwent surgery in Havana nearly a month ago, his longest absence ever.

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