November 4, 2001

Cardinal urges Venezuelan president to improve relations

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) --Cardinal Ignacio Antonio Velasco warned that President Hugo Chavez risks losing the public's faith if he does not improve
relations with the Roman Catholic Church, the media and the business community.

"Everyone knows popular enthusiasm for the president's project is declining. Expectations still exist. The government has time to change completely," Velasco said in an
interview published Sunday in Caracas daily El Universal.

He urged the government to reach out to the Church, the media, business leaders, unions and large landowners -- groups Chavez has accused of belonging to an "oligarchy"
that has failed to make Venezuela's vast oil wealth work for the poor since democracy was restored in 1958.

His comments came after Interior Minister Luis Miquilena said the Church must "assume the consequences" of getting involved in Venezuelan politics. Miquilena was
responding to Monsignor Jose Luis Azuaje's warning that Venezuelans could tire of Chavez's aggressive language.

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