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Venezuela: Chavez's Reelection Sparks Fears of Further-Deteriorating Religious Freedom

  • Religion Today
    Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world
  • 2012 Oct 10
  • Comments

In a reelection to another six-year term, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez marked his fourth presidential election victory since 1998. It means more of the same socialist policies -- and fears of continuing violations of religious freedom, Mission Network News reports. Since 2009, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has included Venezuela on its annual Watch List, which "provides advance warning of negative trends that could develop into severe violations of religious freedom." In USCIRF's 2012 report, investigators found continued violations of freedom of religion in Venezuela, including government failure to hold accountable those behind attacks on religious leaders and houses of worship; virulent rhetoric from Chavez, government officials and state media; and pro-Chavez media directed episodically against certain faith-based communities. Since Chavez first came to office in 1998, there has been a steady increase of government rhetoric and government action against faith-based groups thought to have ties with the West -- and these trends are likely to continue, says Greg Musselman, spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs Canada. "If things do get more difficult, pray that the church would be strengthened, that believers would be prepared for churches to close down."