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Caracas – An appeal to the country’s authorities to remember that “they are at the service of all Venezuelans” came from the Venezuelan bishops, who complained in a message on August 30 about the behavior of some civilian authorities and the National Guard who on Sunday, August 29 prevented part of the humanitarian aid from being passed on to the population of the state of Merida, which has been hit by heavy rains.
Recent floods and landslides in the region have affected about 35,000 people in Venezuela, with at least 20 deaths and as many missing, 8,000 houses were destroyed and caused enormous damage to the infrastructure. At the Angelus on Sunday, August 29, Pope Francis expressed his solidarity with the following words: “I am close to the population of the Venezuelan state of Mérida, hit in recent days by flooding and landslides. I pray for the deceased and their family members and for those who are suffering due to this catastrophe”.
A statement from the Presidency of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela said: “We regret and condemn the attitude of some civil authorities and the National Guard who have not cooperated unselfishly and have not only prevented access to a large part of the relief supplies sent from different parts of the country, but also have taken an attitude of contempt and insult towards members of the Church and other institutions”. The bishops, on behalf of the people affected, call for people to “change this attitude and put themselves at the service of the institutions so that the aid transports soon reach their destination by giving priority to the transit of aid, opening roads and promoting other initiatives for the benefit of the affected population”. All of this, they stress, is in line with the principles of the national Constitution.
The bishops reaffirmed their solidarity with the people of Mérida, especially with the residents of the Mocoties Valley affected by the natural disaster, and stressed the quick response of the Catholic Church and other institutions in organizing relief efforts. “It was only thanks to the immediate reaction of so many people of good will that it was possible to provide various kinds of aid and organize the distribution of medicines and food, clothing and other necessary goods. Charity knows no boundaries and also does not impose any conditions for their exercise”, they emphasize.
The speed with which the national and diocesan Caritas organizations were able to receive the necessary help from different parts of the country, said the bishops, shows “the generosity of Catholics and people of good will who, even in the midst of a crisis that has impoverished many people in the country, they did not hesitate to share the little and the many that they have.
On August 25th, Caritas Mérida, together with Ulandinos First Aid, set up a number of centers to collect non-perishable food, drinking water, blankets, shoes and clothes in good condition, personal care products, medicines, masks, batteries and other alternative sources of energy. At the same time, the Archdiocese of Caracas has set up collection points in six parishes in the capital. On Friday, August 26th, the first trucks with relief supplies drove to Merida. On Saturday, August 28th, 38,000 liters of water and more than 30 tons of relief supplies reached their destination. Caritas is still active nationwide to help not only the people in Merida, but also in other areas affected by the rainfall.