When Hugo Chavez opponent Cardinal Ignacio Velasco died in 2003, the Venezuelan strongman declared the pro-democracy cleric was “in hell.”
At Velasco’s wake, Chavez’s flock brandished pictures of the cardinal with devil horns and hurled stones while chanting Chavista slogans.
After all, Velasco had committed a cardinal sin in the eyes of the autocrat: questioned Chavez’s self appointment as supreme being and urged the people to embrace democracy and human rights instead of the Simon Bolivar fanboy.
“Every day we turn another cheek. I have no cheeks left because every day there is a new insult,” Velasco said of his nemesis the year before he died.
The cardinal was succeeded in Caracas by Rosalio Castillo Lara, who was equally vilified by Chavez for using his influential post — governed by the Vatican, not by the Bolivarian thought factory — to note “the only solution is democratic, which must involve the resistance of all the people.”
“If the Venezuelan people fail to grasp the seriousness of the situation and fail to categorically speak out in favor of democracy and freedom, we will find ourselves subjected to a Marxist-style dictatorship,” the cardinal said shortly before his death in 2007.
Castillo Lara was once asked if he’d like to give Chavez a blessing. “More than a blessing,” the cardinal responded. “I’d give him an exorcism.”
The current archbishop of Caracas, Jorge Urosa Savino, handily picked up the righteous task of jousting with Chavez. He’s had to battle a movement to splinter off a pro-Chavez, socialist, “reformed” Catholic Church and the declining state of the country as Chavez tried to impose a totalitarian state on the people.
The Chavez regime is “intervening in all of the aspects of the life of Venezuelans in the imposition of a Marxist-communist line,” Urosa told El Universal in 2007.
“If Christ were still alive and physically present, I’m completely sure he’d take them out with whippings,” Chavez said of Urosa and other Church leaders.
“Now this cardinal comes out, because he has been sent here by the dirty ones, the little Yankees, to try to frighten the people by speaking of communism, that communism has arrived,” Chavez said of Urosa. “Listen, he’s a troglodyte.”
“On various occasions the president has offended me verbally, exposing me to public ridicule. I totally reject these aggressions that are unworthy of the one who carries them out,” Urosa said. “Instead of reflecting and pondering the arguments put forth and rectifying his line of conduct, he limits himself to insult and offend.”