Less than a month after disastrous National Assembly elections in 2005, U.S. officials met with the Vatican's third highest ranking archbishop to discuss the church's outlook on Venezuela along with the Vatican's positions on a number of other Latin American leaders, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable published Wednesday by WikiLeaks.
During the conversation, recounted in a cable composed on Dec. 23, 2005, Vatican internal affairs chief Archbishop Leonardo Sandri said the church views a number of Latin American leaders as "dangerous," including Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and then-Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Obrador was defeated by rival Felipe Calderón, but continued to campaign for months thereafter, insisting the election had been stolen through fraud. The Vatican saw him as a threat similar to Chavez or former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, according to the cable.
U.S. officials also gave Sandri an idea: having the Vatican order the U.S. Catholic church to supply more aid to the Venezuelan Catholic church so they could build up social programs, enlarging their platform to speak out against Chavez. He responded "positively" to the suggestion, according to the cable.
In Mexico, Sandri was less apt to press the church into becoming more vocal, largely due to "Masonic groups and some segments of Mexican society," who he saw as "ready to pounce on bishops or clergy who strayed into the political realm."
Despite this, the church was adamant that they see "the connections between Chavez, Castro, and other leftist politicians in Latin America, and are concerned about the dangers they present on many levels," the cable's author wrote.
"The Holy See continues to feel that a non-confrontational approach to Chavez is the right strategy for the time being, but the Vatican hierarchy is under no illusions about the danger of Chavez and kindred souls - and the connections between them."