An article published by the Catholic news agency Zenit quotes Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa, as saying that the Catholic Church is "not taking sides" in the current conflict in Honduras. But this is hardly the impression one gets from a lengthy interview with Cardinal Rodriguez published today in the German daily Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). In the FAZ interview, Cardinal Rodríguez accuses Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of fomenting unrest in Honduras in the interest of bringing about a "Bolivarian" revolution in the country and he rejects outright the return to power of ousted President Manuel Zelaya.
"You must know," Cardinal Rodríguez tells the FAZ,
that we are struggling against a very powerful, because very well-financed, campaign, which is being directed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez -- to the extent that agents of the Venezuelan secret services are active in the country and are organizing the supposed popular protests against the removal of President Manuel Zelaya. Weapons have also been brought into the country. Thank God that up to now more blood has not been shed. But not a day goes by without my receiving a death threat.
Asked why he was being threatened, the Cardinal continued:
Because the Catholic Church enjoys great moral authority in the country, but is determined to resist foreign powers again taking control of this country: this time, in order to "bolivarize" it. The agents are already working against the Church, using the same methods that we have come to know from Venezuela. Last Sunday, Mass could not be held in any of the three churches in downtown Tegucigalpa, because gangs had ransacked the churches and threatened the faithful.
Rodríguez said that it was "absurd" to qualify Zelaya's removal as a military coup, noting that "there is not a single military official that in any way belongs to the [current "de facto"] government." Accusing Zelaya not only of violating the Honduran constitution, but also of misappropriating international development aid, he insisted that the aim of negotiations "cannot be to bring about Zelaya's return to Honduras and his restoration to the President's office. The man has shown that he is dishonest and incapable of governing within the limits of the constitution."
"During the crisis, the parliament and the justice system have shown that they are functioning well," Cardinal Rodríguez told the FAZ, "Now everything depends on strengthening these institutions and not following the path taken by Venezuela, Bolivia or Ecuador in systematically discrediting democratic institutions."
Asked by FAZ reporter Daniel Deckers why the American government has publicly supported Zelaya -- "in perfect harmony with Chavez and his followers" -- Cardinal Rodríguez replied: "A lot of Hondurans would like to know that. But nobody can explain it to us."
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