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Pro-government “colectivos” in Venezuela targeting Catholics

Juan Barreto/AFP

Recent attacks and confrontations seem to be part of an orchestrated campaign, according to local Archbishop.

A few years ago, “colectivos” targeted synagogues in Caracas. It is no surprise, then, that the Jewish Venezuelan community massively migrated elsewhere in the last 10 years, either going back to Argentina or Europe or settling in Israel. Now, a series of attacks and confrontations against Catholics in Venezuela not only points to a “renewed deterioration of relations between the Church and the national government” –as The Tablet explains– but also seems to be part of what some members of the clergy have openly called a coordinated campaign.

Venezuelan “colectivos” are pro-government groups that, to a certain extent, are in charge of some social programs but that also have been accused of hoarding firearms and using them while infiltrating demonstrations, and intimidating and using violence against the Venezuelan opposition.

Recently, one of these “colectivos” stormed into a Sunday Mass celebration at the San Pedro Claver church in Caracas, shouting insults at both the congregation and the priest. The insults included “devil in a cassock,” which Chávez himself used to refer to the Venezuelan Cardinal Castillo Lara, when the latter died.

But this has not been the only attack in recent days. Some “colectivos” also gathered around Barquisimeto’s Archbishop Antonio López Castillo’s home, after he publicly criticized the Venezuelan Socialist government; and a few weeks before that, some seminarians were attacked in the streets and stripped of their clothes in the Andean city of Mérida, in Southwestern Venezuela.

Retired Archbishop Ovidio Pérez Morales declared such attacks “are part of a general policy of confrontation with the Church. Specifically, it’s against the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference, and it’s nothing new,” according to declarations gathered by The Tablet.

If you want to read more on the matter, click here.

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