Churches have been targetted by violent mobs in recent weeks during demonstrations of opposition to Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro. According to Catholic Bishop Victor Hugo Basabe, who serves as undersecretary of the Catholic bishops' conference of Venezuela,  "some churches that are located in places where the conflict was high, were attacked by violent groups", even "during Mass." The bishop specified the case of Santa Barbara parish in Mérida, where mobs broke in while Mass was being celebrated. Also, it has been reported that law enforcement officers attacked Rev. José Palmar, a Catholic priest, during a march in Maracaibo, on February 19.
Bishop Rafael Conde of Maracay told the Fides news service that sacrilegious acts and vandalism occurred in Ribas (Aragua State) at Our Lady of La Candelaria parish in la Otra Banda de La Victoria. It was there that the tabernacle was destroyed, consecrated hosts were thrown to the ground, the stereo system of the church was stolen and the niche of the crucified Christ was damaged. Bishop Conde denounced the vandalism at La Candelaria and said "the lack of safety affects us all."
During the late evening hours of March 10, Daniel Tinoco (24) was killed by a single shot to the chest, according to police reports. He was part of a student demonstration that had assembled at the intersection of two prominent thoroughfares. He was a student at the University of Tachira, in the capital city of Tachira State. Two other persons were wounded by gunfire in the attack. Eyewitnesses testified that several unidentified men on motorcycles fired on the student demonstrators after a day in which Venezuela's National Guard fired live rounds of bird shot, as well as tear gas bombs, while attempting to roust the students from their makeshift shelters and barricades.
While President Maduro has convened a third "dialogue of peace," his organized opponents appear uninterested in dialogue. The Secretary General of the Organization of American States José Miguel Insulza told the press on March 10 that the Catholic Church would be an effective mediator in the crisis that has riven the oil-rich country for more than a month. 



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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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