As Venezuela burns, many Latin Americans ask: “Where is Pope Francis?”

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Socialism has driven Venezuela to poverty, political corruption, and unrest. Although Pope Francis has participated in some attempts at “dialogue,” he has not roundly condemned this socialist economy “that kills.” It’s sad, but true, and starving families there are clamoring for help.

If you want to see where socialism takes a country, go to today’s Venezuela. After 18 years of a left-wing populist regime committed to “21st Century Socialism,” a once-wealthy and relatively stable nation is coming apart.

For months, thousands of Venezuelans—tired of food shortages, denied free elections, subject to unambiguously socialist economic policies, forced to watch opposition leaders being jailed, burdened by the all-pervasive presence of Cuban “advisors,” and brutalized by security forces—have been protesting in the streets of all major Venezuelan cities. And what they want is clear: President Nicolás Maduro and his regime must cease behaving like a dictatorship and allow free and fair elections. The government’s response has been equally clear: fiery denunciations of its opponents as “enemies of the people” and, above all, repression, repression, repression.

One institution which has remained free of the regime’s control is the Catholic Church. For years, Venezuela’s Catholic bishops have bravely underscored the abuses of the government first led by the man whose personality and socialist policies lit the fuse for the current conflagration—the late Hugo Chávez—and now by his successor Nicolás Maduro.

Venezuela’s left-populist regime has always recognized the Church as a major support for anyone—Catholic, non-Catholic, believer, non-believer—who opposes what Venezuela’s Catholic bishops called in a remarkably clear and tough-minded January 2017 pastoral exhortation a “totalitarian political system” that seeks to impose its “21stCentury Socialism” upon the country. This is despite the “utter failure,” the bishops added, of “socialism in every country in which this regime has been installed.”

Chávez’s response to similar criticism was to publicly insult Catholic bishops while proclaiming, in near-blasphemous terms, that “Jesus was the first socialist.” Maduro has upped the ante. Chávista thugs regularly attack Catholic priests in churches and Catholic university students in the streets. In April this year, they interrupted the Chrism Mass of the Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa, during Holy Week—which included roughing up the cardinal.

There is, however, one question being consistently asked—with greater frequency and visibly growing impatience—throughout Latin America whenever Venezuela comes up in conversation. And that is: “Where is Pope Francis?”

Photo credit: Matyas Rehak/Shutterstock.com

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