A Venezuelan cardinal has called on state security forces to exercise civil disobedience when given orders to use lethal force against citizens.
“State security agencies exist not to take care of the government but to take care of the citizens,” said Cardinal Baltazar Porras, at a press conference this week.
“Therefore every order that is given that goes against the lives of the citizenry is an order to kill, it is an order which there is no duty to carry out nor heed, because civil disobedience is also a fundamental right,” the cardinal stressed.
Porras, who serves as archbishop of Merida and apostolic administrator of Caracas, stressed the disobeying unjust orders is both a right and a duty for members of the security forces.
Since Nicolas Maduro succeeded Hugo Chávez as president of Venezuela in 2013, the country has been marred by violence and social upheaval. Under the socialist government, the country has seen hyperinflation and severe shortages of food, medicine, and other necessities, and millions have emigrated.
Amid the protests that have taken place throughout the country, dozens of people have been killed by security forces.
Cardinal Porras stressed that “it’s a citizen’s right, a right in any democracy to be able to hold demonstrations and to say what [you think] will solve the problems.”
The cardinal made these statements the same day that the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and former president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, delivered a report to the world organization in Geneva, Switzerland, after sending a mission to Venezuela.
“In the context of the last wave of protests in the first two months of this year, my office documented numerous violations of human rights, torture and abuses committed by the security forces and armed pro-government groups,” Bachelet said.
She said that in Venezuela, democratic freedoms have been restricted, with limited freedom of speech and the criminalization of peaceful protest and dissidence.
Cardinal Porras also stressed the importance of allowing the entrance of humanitarian aid into the country. Maduro has blocked the international aid, denying that it is needed in the country.
The humanitarian aid, the cardinal said, must be “for malnourished children, the elderly, for those requiring ongoing treatment…We have to keep on insisting on this.”