The socialist government presided over by Nicolas Maduro wants to bring the management of Catholic education personnel under the control of the state. Against which the Venezuelan episcopate is raising a claim, in a country ruined by an unprecedented political and financial crisis.
Tensions are rising between the Venezuelan government and the episcopate. In question, a circular dated March 9, 2021 from the Ministry of People's Power for Education - the French equivalent of National Education - which stipulates that the salaries of employees of private Catholic education will now be paid via the government digital platform Sistema Patria, on which they must be registered.
The Venezuelan head of state, the socialist Nicolas Maduro, created a public network called Sistema Patria in 2015. The aim is to collect and unify all the social data of users, and, quite simply, to use them for population control purposes.
Officially, it is about dealing with the “effects of the economic war” with the United States, or the ravages of Covid-19.
Already twenty million Venezuelans have been more or less “encouraged” to register on the government platform: “Sistema Patria makes it easier for everyone to acquire goods and services quickly, simply, and safely,” they claim at the top of the executive offices.
The episcopate, faced with what it considers to be an attempt to seize the private education sector, reacted with a press release published on March 15: the Conference of Bishops of Venezuela (CEV) expresses its concern regarding a decision which “undermines the financial autonomy of educational centers, and violates the agreements in force with the government.”
For Venezuelan prelates, the survival of Catholic education is at stake: “The success of an educational model requires that the educational project, financial management and human resources management be harmonized. ...Until now, the agreements in force have made it possible to provide a quality education that corresponds to the mission entrusted,” explains the CEV.
In 2021, Venezuelan Catholic education (VSLA) has 831 schools which have an agreement with the state, and employs more than 35,000 people.
On the episcopate side, there is no question of lowering the pressure on the government: “we hope that, in the coming days, the authorities can go back. (...) We will do everything possible to reverse the situation,” concludes the CEV press release.
The political situation in Venezuela remains more blocked than ever: the politics of seeking to destabilize President Chavista Nicolas Maduro, set by the Trump administration, has ended in resounding failure.
But international economic sanctions remain, and weigh heavily on a country marked by seven years of economic recession, and now confined, every other week, due to the Covid-19 epidemic.
In a country where 92% of the inhabitants declare themselves Catholic, the power in place, more isolated than ever, has no real interest in alienating the ecclesiastical hierarchy on its own soil.