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Venezuela president orders probe of priests for hate speech

Last Updated Jan 15, 2018 at 10:20 pm EDT

CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has called for an investigation into Roman Catholic priests he says have made comments critical of the government.

Maduro said in an address Monday that church officials may have committed hate crimes, an accusation he frequently levels at government critics.

He called on the pro-government chief prosecutor and Supreme Court to investigate.

Venezuela sits atop the world’s largest oil reserves but is enduring an economic after nearly two decades of socialist rule.

Maduro didn’t directly name any priests.

The newspaper El National, however, says he alluded to Bishop Victor Hugo Basabe of San Felipe recently praying for the liberation of Venezuela from the “corrupt plague” that sees citizens eating from garbage.

The newspaper says Bishop Antonio Lopez Castillo of Barquisimeto drew cheers from thousands at a Mass when he asked that Venezuela be saved from corruption.