BY ISN STAFF | April 24, 2018
Editor’s Note: Portions of this story were originally translated and published by MAGIS America.
Facing an escalating humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, Jesuits from the Jesuit Conference of Latin America and the Caribbean (CPAL) met in Panama City on April 11-12, 2018, to discuss the current situation and to develop collaborative proposals for the Jesuit network of CPAL that can address Venezuela’s current reality.
Following the closing of the two-day meeting, the Jesuits in attendance, including CPAL President Father Roberto Jaramillo, S.J., concluded that:
- There is an increasingly serious and systematic crisis in Venezuela that is generating a worrisome humanitarian emergency, the magnitude of which has not been appropriately recognized or addressed—neither domestically nor internationally—and that despite any political, economic, and ideological differences, this crisis must be addressed.
- The number of people who, as a consequence of this crisis, have emigrated from Venezuela—or are in need of international protection—has become so great that the ordinary operational capacities of private, governmental, and multilateral humanitarian organizations in neighboring countries have been exhausted.
- Despite any possible development of this worrisome situation, the most probable outcome in the short to mid term is that the suffering of the Venezuelan people will be prolonged as this humanitarian emergency maintains or worsens.
- The Church—including the Society of Jesus—is able to make an impartial contribution to the solution of this crisis, as an institution with credibility among the Venezuela population. This credibility stems from its vast experience, knowledge of the reality, its level of commitment to and accompaniment of the poor, its national and international relationships, and the role it has played in defending human rights and education.
To achieve said goal, potential proposals have been developed which aim to:
- Promote, reinforce, and articulate more work with and in favor of Venezuelan migrants and/or those in need of international protection through the Jesuit Migrant Network-LAC and together with Latin American universities, schools, parishes, social centers, spirituality centers, radios, etc.
- Establish concrete forms of collaboration among CPAL communities and works with the mission of the Apostolic Body of the Society of Jesus in Venezuela, which includes Jesuits, collaborators, and their families.
- Collaborate in the search and construction of alternative political resolutions for Venezuela and the democratic crisis in the region.
These proposals will be presented in their entirety and evaluated at the next CPAL Assembly, which will be held in Haiti the first week of May.
“We are convinced that alternatives to the current situation in Venezuela must be conceived and implemented by Venezuelans,” the group says. “[However] at the same time we believe that the solidarity and support of the international community is necessary and urgent to create conditions which would allow a true dialogue and agreement on proposals and action plans.”
Among those present at the meeting from Venezuela were: Fr. Luis Ugalde (Director of CERPE), Fr. José Virtuoso (President of Universidad Católica Andrés Bello), Fr. Manuel Zapata (Director of Centro Gumilla), Fr. Yovanny Bermúdez (Director of Jesuit Refugee Service-Venezuela), Fr. Dizzi Perales, and Fr. Rafael Garrido (SJ Provincial of Venezuela). Also in attendance were: Fr. Mauricio García (Director of Jesuit Refugee Service-LAC), Fr. Luis Javier Sarralde (Assistant of Apostolates-SJ Province of Colombia), Fr. Rafael Moreno Villa and Fr. Mario Serrano Marte (current and future CPAL Secretary for Social Ministries), Fr. Agnaldo Junior (Director of Jesuit Migrant Service-Brazil), and Fr. Roberto Jaramillo (President of CPAL).
In 2016, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared the situation in Venezuela a “humanitarian crisis” and the UN high commissioner for human rights expressed concern regarding deteriorating human rights conditions. These realities include shortages of medicines and food, government intimidation campaigns against human rights defenders, and harsh government responses to peaceful expressions of dissent. According to Human Rights Watch, the Venezuelan health minister reported that from 2015 to 2016 maternal mortality increased 65 percent, infant mortality increased 30 percent, and cases of malaria increased 76 percent. In November 2017, Caritas Venezuela warned that some 280,000 children could die of malnutrition due to food shortages amidst the country’s grave economic crisis.