Archbishop criticizes secrecy surrounding Hugo Chavez's health

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The head of the Venezuelan bishops' conference said that faced with the secrecy of the government, locals are struggling to discern the truth surrounding President Hugo Chavez's illness.

In his speech to open the 98th Plenary Assembly of the bishops’ conference on July 7, Archbishop Diego Padron criticized the Venezuelan government, calling its lack of transparency a characteristic trait.  

“This secrecy does nothing to bring calm to the country,” he said.

The archbishop stressed that in a normal democratic nation, “the people know about the health of their leaders with certainty. The fear of the people, exhausted by the violence and lack of security, has become a crisis of national health.”

President Chavez, who was diagnosed with cancer in the pelvic region in 2011, has kept the seriousness of his illness top secret.

During a press conference on Monday, he told reporters he is “free, totally free” of cancer, as he prepares to seek a fourth term as president in the elections set for October. Chavez had previously claimed to be cancer-free but later had to resume treatment.

Archbishop Padron said the uncertainty surrounding the Venezuelan leader’s health is troubling. 

“Venezuelans are suffering from the same problems of the last few years and we are asking the same questions about the future of our country: its democracy, its freedom, its production, its security.”

He stressed the importance of a fair and respectful campaign, as well as acceptance of the results of the Oct. 7 elections and their consequences. In this way they will be an opportunity for the strengthening of democracy in the country, he added.

“The upcoming election day should not paralyze or fracture the country into two parts or envelop it in violence and uncertainty. On the contrary, it should bring adversaries together, reestablish unity and move the nation forward in humanism, culture and hope,” the archbishop said.

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