A delegation of three church leaders from Cuba, Canada, and the United States visited Venezuela as part of an international, ecumenical campaign in solidarity with the Venezuelan people and churches. Joel Ortega Dopico, Executive Secretary of the Cuban Council of Churches and ACT Alliance Board Member; Jim Hodgson, Program Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Church of Canada, and Angel Luis Rivera-Agosto, Area Executive for Latin America and the Caribbean of Global Ministries were welcomed by Gamaliel Lugo and Eseario Sosa, General Bishop and Deputy General Bishop, respectively, of the Evangelical Pentecostal Union of Venezuela. In their visit, the church leaders had the opportunity to engage in dialogue regarding human rights, economic sanctions, constitutional and legal matters with government officials and non-governmental organization leaders. They also had the opportunity to meet a vast number of church leaders from both traditional denominations and grass-roots congregations in Caracas.
The delegation could acknowledge the enormous efforts of the Venezuelan institutions to alleviate the needs of the people of the country in spite of the economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the European Union. As Dr. Pascualina Curcio, professor of the Central University of Venezuela, described it to the delegation, the economic aggressions have consisted of unilateral coercive measures, characterized mainly by financial and commercial blockades. It also has included an attack on the Venezuelan currency, the Bolivar, inducing hyperinflation and destabilization of all sectors of the economy, which in turn caused an important contraction of the national production, thereby affecting the Venezuelan population. She summarized it all as the country suffering from “an economic war.” Sister Eugenia Russián, a Catholic nun and President of FUNDALATIN, an ecumenical non-governmental organization working in Venezuela for almost 40 years, told to the delegation that the economic aggressions are part of a plan to overthrow the constitutional, legitimately elected government of Venezuela by generating economic and political destabilization. That is coupled with a message that holds the Bolivarian government and its model responsible as a way of undermining the support of the people and causing a fracture in the Bolivarian National Armed Forces that may result in a coup.
Joel Ortega-Dopico expressed a sense of urgency in the visit when he addressed 60 leaders of Pentecostal, Baptist, and independent grass-roots congregations at a meeting in the southeast area of Caracas. “We came here out of love and commitment with the people of Venezuela. We are not here to tell you what to do but to accompany you in whatever matters you could prioritize in our walking together. We will be sharing your message to our constituencies in the United States, Canada, Cuba and globally. As our churches are part of ACT Alliance, it is our goal to strengthen our ties into working with you to address the people´s needs, but also to affirm justice in the particular context that you are living now. We have witnessed that most of the present crisis in Venezuela has been induced by the powers-that-be, by rich nations who are hungry for oil and other resources, wanting to exploit them on your behalf. The way they play with your currency, seizing Venezuelan property, blocking bank accounts overseas, even robbing your enterprises and your gold, that is unspeakable. But the God of justice and peace is with you and the brothers and sisters of good will around the world will embrace you in this difficult moment.”
The delegation will render a report to their respective constituencies to give follow up to the said campaign.