to open the UN General Assembly. “It is with personal humility, but with my justified pride as a woman, that I meet this historic moment,” said Rousseff as she opened the general debate. “I share this feeling with over half of the human beings on this planet who, like myself, were born women and who, with tenacity, are occupying the place they deserve in the world. I am certain that this will be the century of women.” —- Rousseff can also be found on the cover of this week’s Newsweek, with a profile by Mac Margolis.
l aunched the Open Government Partnership (OGP) while in New York on Tuesday. The OGP’s goal is to give citizens tools to monitor elected leaders and achieve more transparent governance. Mexico is one of the additional six founding members and other Latin American countries that have pledged to sign on to the partnership are: Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, and Uruguay.
Colombia, a member of the Security Council, is very important in this because an attempt is being made to negate to the Palestinians a simple majority in the SEcurity Council in order to avoid a US veto.
drilling for oil in the Florida Straits between the Florida Keys and Cuba as early as mid-December. It is estimated Cuba may hold anywhere from 5 billion to 20 billion barrels of oil in offshore reserves.
In a piece for CNN’s Global Public Square program and blog, Fareed Zakaria warns: “Our trade embargo on Cuba not only prevents us from doing business with our neighbor but it also bars us from sending equipment and expertise to help even in a crisis. So, if there is an explosion, we will watch while the waters of the Gulf Coast get polluted.”
We watched that program on Sunday, September 18th and it is crystal clear that the US has now to end the embargo on Cuba. We know that election season in the US has just started – but it seems that moves by President Obama on this issue would be right in place and would improve relations within the Western Hemisphere where all countries now side with Cuba.
I just watched Spain win in Johannesburg Ellis Park stadium, by 1:0 its game with Paraguay. This leaves Germany, Netherlands, Spain and Uruguay still standing, and we dare now to make our own predictions about the Semi-final and Final games.
July 4th and 5th there are no games.
Tuesday July 6th, in Cape Town’s new Green Point Stadium, Netherlands will play Uruguay and we predict a Netherlands win.
Wednesday July 7th in Durban’s new Moses Mabhida Stadium, Germany will play Spain and we predict a German win.
Saturday, July 10th in Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth – The Port Elizabeth Stadium – we predict a Spain – Uruguay game and a Spain win for the third place in the 2010 World Cup.
Sunday, July 11th in the new Johannesburg’s Soccer City Stadium near Soweto, in the iconic shape of the African calabash, there will be the final game of the 2010 World Cup.
We predict that the game will be between Germany and The Netherlands – and we predict The German team wins.
Above means that the final standing, we predict, will be: Germany, The Netherlands, Spain.
On the European side, the early elimination of France, England and Italy was also considered by many as surprising.
A Disclaimer: The 2010 South Africa FIFA Football, though strange, but being still rather round, allows for the unexpected – so we take no responsibility for the case our predictions are duds! Do not blame us if you execute the wrong bets.
Thinking of the changing fortunes of the World Cup – Argentina’s China dilemma was solved in Cape Town today by its 0:4 loss to Germany. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner will be able to go peacefully to Beijing July 13-15, 2010, rather then be involved with the July 11th finals of the World Cup and the contemplated victory celebrations at home.
we learned the following – “Argentina in Cup dilemma.”
a short article by Jude Webber from Buenos Aires that appeared in the Financial Times (in print) of July 3, 2010.
“”No one in Argentina wants the national team to fail to make the World Cup final – except, perhaps, the planners at the foreign ministry trying to get a visit to China back on track.
Cristina Fernández, the president, abruptly cancelled a trip to Beijing in January at the height of a row over the use of central bank reserves to pay off debt because she did not want to leave her estranged vice-president in charge.
The cancellation of the visit, in which she had been due to meet her counterpart Hu Jintao, went down like a tonne of bricks in Beijing and the ill-feeling was widely seen as contributing to China’s subsequent decision to tighten restrictions on imports of soya oil from Argentina, a key supplier.
Ms. Fernández apologised profusely for the faux-pas and the trip was rescheduled – but officials in this football-mad country must have momentarily taken their eyes off the ball: the visit was rearranged for mid-July.
That seriously complicates the presidential agenda: diplomatic sources expect Ms Fernández to attend the World Cup final on July 11, if Argentina make it. But that would mean she would have to race to China for a meeting now pencilled in for July 13-15, and would potentially miss being homecoming queen in Buenos Aires if Argentina triumph.
Commentators are already speculating that Ms Fernández and Néstor Kirchner, her husband, predecessor and likely presidential candidate in 2011, are dreaming of appearing on the balcony of the presidential palace beside football legend Diego Maradona, the national coach.
If Argentina win their third World Cup, a pragmatic solution is bound to be found, but Mr Kirchner knows first-hand the dangers of putting football over business: he once kept former Hewlett-Packard boss Carly Fiorina waiting because he was engrossed in conversation with Mr Maradona. The computer group reportedly returned the snub by switching key investments to Brazil.
A senior Chinese source in Argentina admits the timing is tricky and the dates “are an issue we are discussing with the foreign ministry”.”
Having seen above article earlier today, that is before watching the Argentina-Germany game, played in Cape Town, on ABC in New York, I clearly thought of the political pickle the Kirchner Argentinian internal politics came up with because of some policy vision confusion. Please, you do not push around China when you want their money – just because of internal dissensions!
THE BEAUTIFUL GAME:
With Germany and Argentina saying NO TO RACISM – on South Africa’s anti-racism day - the Argentinians in the crowd dancing to their anthem, and just about half of the Germans singing their anthem, under the watchful eyes of Chancellor Angela Merkel, present to encourage them, the game started very fast – and the first German goal came about after less then 6 minutes.
The non-anthem singing members of the German team had names like Khedira and Boateng, but to my surprise I learned that even the Argentinians had an Ibrahim that was born in France, but clearly must have been of North Africa lineage. Whatever – this is the globalization of the football game that nevertheless is clearly anchored now in West Europe and in the Southern American cone. These games may now come up with a picture that further narrows it to one anchor – and it is Western Europe. But the last words were not said yet. What is clear nevertheless, is that Japan, China, the Koreas, or anyone else of Asia, will still have to practice for years before having an impact on the World Cup and in Europe the football field has lost some of its evenness – France, England, Italy were the early flunkies.
But this article is really about China – and not because it is great in football. They surely have the money to buy players if they wish to do so. We rather believe they will develop a speedy game and enter it with their own people – but who knows? Surely they will not be left out for long. For one thing – Argentina could help by sending to them Diego Maradona and help this as a joint start-up effort. Maradona will not be needed in South Africa beyond today either.
September 11, 1973, that is 35 years ago, Salvador Allende of Chile Was Deposed With The Help of the US CIA That Then Financed 17 Years Of Dictatorship By Chilean Military – That is the 9/11 Most Remembered In Latin America.
Thirty-five Years Ago, Latin America Experienced Its Own September 11.
by: Teo Ballve, Colombian Writer, The Progressive, September 9, 2008.
In 1970, Salvador Allende became the democratically elected president of Chile. On Sept. 11, 1973, the Chilean military, supported by Washington, overthrew Allende and in his place a US-financed 17-year regime of terror took over. Latin America, which experienced its own September 11 thirty-five years ago, is no longer under Washington’s thumb.
On Sept. 11, 1973, the Chilean military, supported by Washington, overthrew the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende. It was a day that was burned in the memories of millions of people across the continent.
Allende had come to power in 1970 as a democratic socialist, and his victory raised hopes among Latin Americans that peaceful social change was possible.
But three years later, when military tanks and fighter jets blasted the presidential palace where Allende had taken refuge, those hopes were dashed. Allende took his own life during the attack, and in his place a U.S.-financed 17-year regime of terror took over. The junta, led by Augusto Pinochet, murdered more than 3,000 people and tortured and detained thousands more.
Now, 35 years after Allende’s overthrow, a lot has changed in Latin America. For starters, Chile’s current president (Michelle Bachelet) is not only a woman, but also a member of Allende’s Socialist Party.
And Washington, once the unofficial arbiter of the politics and economies of Latin America, has been sidelined, as progressive reformers have claimed victory in an ever-growing number of countries.
Today, left-leaning leaders control almost every country of South America. These leaders are by no means a uniform bunch. But they all share the popular mandate of addressing the needs of the most disadvantaged citizens of Latin America, where nearly half the population of 550 million lives in grinding poverty.
Fulfilling campaign promises, many of these leaders have defied Washington’s economic and political strictures – first introduced in post-Sept. 11 Chile – in trying to lift millions out of poverty.
Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa have moved to take a larger share of profits from their nations’ vast oil and gas reserves to reinvest the money in anti-poverty programs.
Morales also plans to use windfall gas profits in Bolivia – the poorest country in South America – to strengthen its faltering social security system.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a former union organizer, has similar plans for the profits expected from newly discovered massive oil reserves.
Despite persistent U.S. meddling, it’s hard to see how Washington could once again so recklessly block the desperately needed reforms now sweeping Latin America. When it has recently tried to impose its will, Latin American governments have fended off Washington by banding together.
The region’s new leaders finally are implementing policies that make real improvements in people’s lives. Allende tried to do so, but he was not allowed to see them through to fruition.
From his tragedy, new hope has arisen.
Teo Ballve is a freelance journalist and editor based in Colombia. He can be reached at pmproj at progressive.org.
The Americas Society / Council of the Americas will have in September, in New York City, events with the Presidents of – Brazil (H.E. Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva – September 22, 2008), Paraguay (H.E. Fernando Lugo – September 23, 2008), Colombia (H.E. Ãlvaro Uribe VÃ©lez), and Argentina (H.E. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner – September 25, 2008).
It is only natural that Americas Society and the Council follow very closely the US elections – this because of the fact that definite need for improving the US position among the States of the Western Hemisphere is in order, and many are worried about business an d security issues – specially in the light of efforts to bring back Cuba into the Organization of American States.
The following is an article from the Society’s website, and we look forward onto reporting on the meetings with the Presidents.
Vice Presidential Choices, Latin America Policy, and the Hispanic Vote.
While the U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain secure their nominations and announce running mates, questions arise over what the vice presidential candidates could contribute in terms of winning the Hispanic vote and U.S. policy toward the Western Hemisphere. Obama’s choice of longtime Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) as a vice presidential candidate could bolster the Democratic ticket because of his strong foreign policy credentials. Meanwhile, little is known about where Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin—embroiled in controversy over her teenage daughter’s pregnancy—stands on subjects such as immigration, trade, or U.S. policy toward Cuba.
Winning the Latino voting bloc has emerged as crucial for both camps, with the Democratic and Republican campaigns hiring special advisors to court Hispanic voters. According to a survey by the Pew Hispanic Center, Latino voters prefer Obama over McCain by a 2 to 1 ratio. Dallas Democratic State Representative Rafael AnchÃa said support for former candidate Hillary Clinton showed that Latinos did not need a Hispanic politician on the ticket to make a choice, responding to a question in a Dallas Morning News article as to whether Obama should have selected New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as a running mate.
Some within the Democratic party fear that Latinos who supported Hillary Clinton in the primaries won’t vote for Obama in November. A National Journal article says that even though Latinos appear to lean toward the Democratic ticket, they lack a deep connection with Obama. Meanwhile, Alaska Governor Palin’s strong opposition to abortion could help with conservative Catholic Latino voters, suggested one expert to the Sacramento Bee.
Yet Palin’s position on the issue of immigration—an important matter to the Latino electorate—remains unclear. On the other hand, Obama and Biden stand aligned. Both emphasize the importance of securing American borders while supporting a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants. Additionally, they voted in support of the “Secure Fence Act of 2006,” which approved construction of a 700 mile-long fence along the U.S.-Mexican border.
Palin faces criticism for her lack of foreign policy experience and she has not been vocal on regional matters, including U.S. policy toward Cuba. Meanwhile, the island’s political transition has already sparked debate between Obama and McCain. Biden, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has demonstrated support for the U.S. embargo against Cuba. He voted in favor of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which opened the door to suing foreign companies that benefit from confiscated American property in Cuba. Following the resignation of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the Delaware senator proposed easing restrictions on travel and remittances from the United States, establishing direct mail, and supporting the creation of small businesses in the island without relaxing the embargo.
On the subject of trade, Biden has proven wary of Free Trade Agreements (FTA). He voted against FTAs signed with Oman, Singapore, Chile, and Central America. Biden also rejected the U.S.-Peru FTA in December 2007, saying, “[T]he Bush Administration has not proven that it will effectively enforce labor and environmental provisions.” When running for the 2008 Democratic nomination, Biden voiced support for revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, echoing Obama’s pledge to renegotiate the pact’s terms. However, Biden supported the extension of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act, which provides preferential trade with Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru for some 5,600 products as part of efforts to eradicate drug trafficking.
Meanwhile, Palin has voiced support for international trade as Alaska’s governor, saying, “We are helping our economy and economies around the world through trade.” Although Palin has not been vocal on specific trade pacts in the Americas, Mexico and Chile stand among Alaska’s top ten export markets.
A new column by the Washington Post’s Marcela Sanchez takes a closer look at what an Obama-Biden victory could mean for U.S. policy toward Latin America and ponders whether it could help restore Washington’s standing in the region.
Send questions and comments for the editor to: ascoa.online at as-coa.org.
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The Americas in the Mercer Ranking of 143 world cities in regard to cost of living for expatriates with New York City as a benchmark at 100 points.
The only North American city to feature in this year’s top 50 is New York in 22nd place – score 100 – dropping seven places – from 15th place – in one year.
“The decline in the ranking of all US cities is due to the weakening value of the US dollar against most major world currencies,” said Mitch Barnes, principal at Mercer in the US. “The dollar has been declining steadily for the past several years, which has resulted in an overall decrease in the cost of living in 19 US cities, relative to other major global cities studied.
“On the bright side, the US dollar’s loss of value may serve to attract globally mobile executives to business centres such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The difference in cost of living can be significant, particularly for those executives with families.”
In 54th place (score 88.1), jumping 28 places from last year, Toronto is the most expensive city for expatriates in Canada. All other Canadian cities in the survey have experienced similar rises, with Vancouver moving from 89th to 64th (score 85.8), Calgary from 92nd to 66th (score 85.4) and MontrÃ©al from 98th to 72nd with a score of 83. This reverses last year’s trend which saw Canadian cities decline, and places them back where they have traditionally been rated. The Canadian dollar has appreciated nearly 15% against the US dollar, the main reason for these movements.
The two top-ranking cities in South America are SÃ£o Paulo in 25th place (score 97) and Rio de Janeiro in 31st place (score 95.2), jumping 37 and 33 places, respectively. The Brazilian real appreciated nearly 18% against the US dollar last year, causing these Brazilian cities to rocket up the list. Another high-riser in this region is Caracas, jumping 40 places from 129th to 89th (score 79.3). High inflation in Venezuela has caused a sharp increase in the price of food and household products.
South America also has some of the lowest ranking cities globally. AsunciÃ³n is the least expensive city for the sixth consecutive year (score 52.5), followed by Quito in Ecuador in 142nd (score 54.6), Buenos Aires in 138th (score 62.7) and Montevideo in 136th (score 63.2).
The UK currency has changed the least among the European currencies in relation to the US dollar – this led to decreases in the cost of living ratings of British cities’ ranking in the list of 143. Thus, from the London point of view:
Worldwide Cost of Living survey 2008 â€“ City rankings.
United Kingdom, London, 24 July 2008
Moscow is still the most expensive city for expatriates; AsunciÃ³n in Paraguay is the cheapest for the sixth consecutive year.
Moscow is the world’s most expensive city for expatriates for the third consecutive year, according to the latest Cost of Living Survey from Mercer. Tokyo is in second position climbing two places since last year, where as London drops one place to rank third.
Oslo climbs six places to 4th place and is followed by Seoul in 5th.
Mercer’s survey covers 143 cities across six continents and measures the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location, including housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment. It is the world’s most comprehensive cost of living survey and is used to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation allowances for their expatriate employees.
Yvonne traber, a principal and research manager at Mercer, commented: “Current market conditions have led to the further weakening of the US dollar which, coupled with the strengthening of the Euro and many other currencies, has caused significant changes in this year’s rankings.”
She added: “Although the traditionally expensive cities of Western Europe and Asia still feature in the top 20, cities in Eastern Europe, Brazil and India are creeping up the list. Conversely, some locations such as Stockholm and New York now appear less costly by comparison.
“Our research confirms the global trend in price increases for certain foodstuffs and petrol, though the rise is not consistent in all locations. This is partly balanced by decreasing prices for certain commodities such as electronic and electrical goods. We attribute this to cheaper imports from developing countries, especially China, and to advances in technology.
“In some cases, cost of living increases may be correlated to countries with a high rate of economic growth. Companies may assign high priority to expansion in these economies but may have to deal with inflationary pressures due to competition for expatriate-level housing and other services, as observed in our surveys,” she noted.
For example, Latvia had real GDP growth of 10.2% in 2007, well above the global average growth rate of 5.2%, and its capital, Riga, jumped to 46th place in the latest Mercer ranking, up from 72nd a year ago. Cities in India all rose in the cost of living ranking, with New Delhi climbing to 55th place from 68th a year ago, as India posted a real GDP growth rate of 9.2% in 2007. Bogota jumped to 87th place from 112th, reflecting Colombia’s 7% real GDP growth.
Top 50 cities: Cost of living (including rental accommodation costs)
The Cost of Living Indices below have been prepared specifically for the purpose of the press release.
Mercer is a leading global provider of consulting, outsourcing and investment services. Mercer works with clients to solve their most complex benefit and human capital issues, designing and helping manage health, retirement and other benefits. It is a leader in benefit outsourcing. Mercer’s investment services include investment consulting and multi-manager investment management. Mercer’s 18,000 employees are based in more than 40 countries. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., which lists its stock (ticker symbol: MMC) on the New York, Chicago and London stock exchanges. For more information, visit www.mercer.com
After the Election of Former Bishop Fernando Lugo as President of Paraguay Now In Brazil and Most of the Andean Region Are Under The Influence Of Liberation Theology and Pope Bendict Will Have To Reconcile With This Reality If He Expects To Hang On To The Church’s Influence in this Region. The US and the EU Will Also Lose Out In This Region If They Proposes The Commodification of Water.
Tomorrow, April 30, 2008, COHA will issue a research finding entitled “One of History’s Greatest Atrocities: The Corporate Theft of Public Water,” which explores the concept of water privatization. The article investigates the importance of water to the public good as well as depicts the horrors of the decentralization of water resources in countries such as Canada, The United States, and throughout South America. Along with this article is a contrasting piece by Andrea Arango, which will also be issued on Wednesday April 30th. Arango explores water commodification as a beneficial factor for society, which entirely differs from COHA’s viewpoint.
Pope Benedict’s Holy War Against Liberation Theology in South America: Pontiff and Conservative Church Face a Rollback.
by NIKOLAS KOZLOFF, COHA Senior Research Fellow.
COHA is The Washington DC based Council On Hemispheric Affairs.
Recognizing the pressing need for social justice, Liberation Theology was minted by Pope John XXIII to challenge the Church to defend the oppressed and the poor. Since its emergence, Liberation Theology has consistently mixed politics and religion. Its adherents have often been active in labor unions and left-wing political parties. Followers of Liberation Theology take inspiration from fallen martyrs like Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador and Dorothy Mae Stang, an American-born nun who was murdered by ranching interests in Brazil.
Romero, an outspoken voice for social change, was gunned down in 1980 by a right wing death squad during a Mass in the chapel of San Salvador’s Divine Providence hospital. Stang, an advocate of the poor and the environment, was shot to death in the Brazilian Amazon in February 2005; her assailants were later linked to a powerful local landlord.
Joseph Ratzinger: Doctrinal Czar
During the 1980s and 1990s Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, acted as John Paul II’s doctrinal czar. At the time, John Paul was in the midst of a fierce battle to silence prominent Church liberals. “This conception of Christ as a political figure, a revolutionary, as the subversive of Nazareth,” the Pontiff once said, “does not tally with the church’s catechism.”
Originally a liberal reformer, Ratzinger changed his tune once he became an integrant in the Vatican hierarchy. As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog agency, Cardinal Ratzinger warned against the temptation to view Christianity in an exclusively political light. Liberation Theology, he once said, was dangerous as it fused “the Bible’s view of history with Marxist dialectics.”
Calling Liberation Theology a “singular heresy,” Ratzinger went on the offensive. He blasted the new movement as a “fundamental threat” to the church and prohibited some of its leading proponents from speaking publicly. In an effort to clean house, Ratzinger even summoned outspoken priests to Rome and censured them on grounds that they were abandoning the church’s spiritual role for inappropriate socioeconomic activism.
As Pope, Ratzinger has not sought to hide his lack of esteem for Liberation Theology. During a recent trip to Brazil, he was pressed by reporters to comment on Oscar Romero’s tragic murder in El Salvador. The Pope complained that Romero’s cause had been hijacked by supporters of liberation theology. Commenting on a new book about the slain archbishop, the Pope said that Romero should not be seen simply as a political figure. Hoping to avoid any meaningful political discussion on the matter, Benedict said “He was killed during the consecration of the Eucharist. Therefore, his death is testimony of the faith.”
How to Handle Lugo?
Despite his best efforts however, Benedict has not been able to impede the rise of the Bishop of the Poor in Paraguay. Lugo has had long time differences with the Vatican, which could now create some political friction between Paraguay and the Papal See. When Lugo left the priesthood to pursue politics, the Vatican refused to accept his resignation, arguing that the Bishop already made a “lifetime commitment.” Defying the Pope, Lugo formed the center left Patriotic Alliance, which brought together leftist unions, indigenous people and poor farmers.
When Lugo announced his intention to run in what turned out to be his victorious presidential race, the Vatican sent him a letter declaring that the Holy See had “learned with surprise” that some political parties “have the intention of presenting him as a candidate in the coming Presidential election in Paraguay.” It added: “The acceptance of that offer would be clearly against the serious responsibility of a bishop â€¦ Canon Law prohibits priests from participating in political parties or labor unions.” The letter asked Lugo “in the name of Jesus Christ” to “seriously reflect on his behavior”.
Lugo replied tartly, “The Pope can either accept my decision or punish me. But I am in politics already.” Hardly amused, the Vatican suspended Lugo from his duties “a divinis,” meaning that he could no longer say Mass or carry out other priestly functions such as administering the sacraments. This was enough to enable Lugo to stand in the Presidential elections, but his victory now presents the Vatican with a dilemma over whether to “reduce him to lay status.” Vatican officials said it was up to the Pope to decide, and that Benedict would “take time to study the situation”.
Though Benedict has long opposed Liberation Theology, it’s unclear what he might do at this point to halt its spread. Unlike the 1980s when South America was in the midst of right-wing military rule, the region has now undergone a decided shift to the left which is confounding the Papacy.
In Brazil, the world’s most populous Roman Catholic nation, some 80,000 “base communities,” as the grass-roots building blocks of liberation theology are called, are flourishing. What’s more, nearly one million “Bible circles” meet regularly to read and discuss scripture from the viewpoint of the theology of liberation.
Liberation Theology advocates have strong links to the labor movement which helped propel the current regime into power; this history turned President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva into being a long time ally. The movement has been particularly strong in poorer areas of the country such as the Amazon, the hinterlands of northeast Brazil and the outskirts of large urban centers like SÃ£o Paulo, which has a population of 20 million people.
In the latter city, the followers of liberation theology prominently display their politics. For example, during last year’s May Day celebration, liberation theologists draped a wooden cross with black banners labeled “imperialism” and “privatization” and applauded when the homily criticized the government’s “neoliberal” economic policies, the kind backed by Washington.
ChÃ¡vez and Pope Benedict:
Try as he might, Benedict has been unable to halt the re-emergence of Liberation Theology, and Paraguay and Brazil are just the tip of the iceberg. For years Venezuela has been a religious battleground, with President ChÃ¡vez pursuing a combative relationship with the Catholic Church. Unlike some other Latin American countries which had a stronger liberation theology movement, the Venezuelan Church never had a leftist tendency except among diocesan priests.
A clash between the government and the Church was probably inevitable, and shortly after taking office ChÃ¡vez started to chastise Venezuelan bishops, accusing them of complicity with the corrupt administrations that preceded his rule. The Venezuelan leader accused the Vatican’s former representative in Venezuela, Cardinal Rosalio Castillo Lara, of allying himself with the country’s “rancid oligarchy.” Memorably, ChÃ¡vez suggested that priests such as Castillo Lara ought to subject themselves to an exorcism because “the devil has snuck into their clerical robes.” Incensed, the cardinal compared ChÃ¡vez to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
During the April 2002 coup, prominent Catholics such as Cardinal Ignacio Velasco sided with the opposition against the president. Velasco was even accused of offering his residence as a meeting place for the coup plotters. What is more, he signed the “Carmona decree” that swept away Venezuela’s democratic institutions. Senior Catholic bishops themselves attended the inauguration ceremony for Pedro Carmona, Venezuela’s Dictator-For-a-Day.
But when ChÃ¡vez was able to quickly overturn the coup and return to power, the hard line Church establishment was humiliated. Relishing his triumph ChÃ¡vez launched a rhetorical broadside on the Vatican, calling on the Pope to apologize, on behalf of the Catholic Church, for the “holocaust” of the indigenous peoples of Latin America during the colonial era, and for the imposition of Christianity. The Pope, who is close to Castillo Lara, is reportedly anti-ChÃ¡vez but has met with the Venezuelan leader at the Vatican.
Hoping to neutralize the power of the Catholic Church, ChÃ¡vez frequently quotes from the Bible. Puckishly, he also tells his supporters in his public addresses that Christ was an anti-imperialist. Even as ChÃ¡vez spars with the Church, Protestants have provided a key pillar of the president’s political support. Over the last few years, ChÃ¡vez has done his utmost to cultivate the support of Protestants, which make up 29% of the population. He even declared that he was no longer a Catholic, but a member of the Christian Evangelical Council.
In The Andes, Pope Faces Hostile Political Environment:
In the Andes, the situation is not much more promising for Pope Benedict.
Bolivia’s Evo Morales has never been a fan of ecclesiastical authority and has said that Catholic bishops “historically damaged the country” by functioning as “an instrument of the oligarchs.” What’s more, Morales tapped Rafael Puente Calvo, an ex-Jesuit and a staunch liberation theologian, to be his Deputy Minister of the Interior.
In Paraguay, Brazil, Venezuela, and up and down the Andes Pope Benedict faces a very changed political climate from the 1980s. A new generation of leaders, allied to the Pope’s ideological foes, has to be making life difficult for the conservative church hierarchy. If he wants the Vatican to maintain its influence in the region, Pope Benedict is going to have to be creative, diplomatic and extremely cautious in his regional initiatives.
In Paraguay, A Local Prelate Runs Ahead Of The Church In Planning To Do Good For The Poor. Vatican Beware – Liberation Theology May Be Thy Salvation in Latin America and in the Rest of the Poor World!
The ruling party concedes power after six decades. Left-leaning Fernando Lugo ran on a platform of ‘change.’
By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, April 20, 2008.
Fernando Lugo, 56, dubbed “the bishop of the poor,” was leading by 10 percentage points with more than 90% of the results in, electoral officials said. He had about 41% of the vote to about 31% for his chief opponent, Blanca Ovelar of the ruling Colorado Party. Ovelar called the margin of victory “irreversible” and conceded defeat in the evening.
Lugo’s victory was historic in Paraguay, where the Colorado Party has held power even longer than the communist regimes of China, North Korea and Cuba.
Spurring his triumph was widespread discontent with the ruling party’s long record of corruption, cronyism and economic stagnation.
“The humble citizens are the ones responsible for this change,” Lugo said at a downtown news conference as his lead grew. “Paraguayans have taken a great step toward civic maturity. . . . We have opened a new page in this nation’s political history.”
Thousands of Lugo’s backers, many waving Paraguayan flags, gathered Sunday evening in the streets of this tropical capital to celebrate. Joyous supporters sang, banged drums, set off fireworks and honked vehicle horns as word spread that the upstart ex-cleric was headed for victory.
The bearded, bespectacled Lugo, who has never held political office, ran on the same “change” motto that has become a buzzword of the U.S. presidential race.
Lugo vowed to alter the course of his landlocked nation of 6.6 million best known in much of the world for its rampant contraband, crushing poverty and bleak history of dictatorship under a former Colorado Party leader. Many Paraguayans immigrate to neighboring Argentina and Brazil, as well as to Europe and the United States, in search of economic opportunities.
Lugo said he would fight endemic corruption, institute long-delayed agrarian reform, invest in education and social needs, and renegotiate Paraguay’s income from two huge hydroelectric projects with Brazil and Argentina. He argued that Paraguay was failing to benefit from the massive amounts of excess electricity its dams produce.
The days of relying on ruling-party contacts for jobs and other needs will end, Lugo declared. Supporters said his time as a priest and bishop cemented his honest image in this overwhelmingly Roman Catholic nation.
“This country needs a change,” said Natalia Talavera, 26, a first-time voter and mother of two who cast her ballot at a public school downtown. “I voted for change, for Fernando Lugo. I just hope they let him have the victory he deserves.”
Lugo had been leading in polls, but many experts had doubted that he could overcome the Colorado Party’s well-oiled political machine. However, the Colorados suffered a divisive primary fight that weakened support. And Ovelar, a former education minister, lacked charisma and the political skill of other party stalwarts.
Lugo survived a nasty campaign during which opponents tried to link him to terrorists, guerrillas, kidnapping gangs and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Lugo denied any links to armed groups and denied that he would be a puppet of Venezuela’s leftist leader.
The U.S. Embassy kept a low profile during the heated campaign, as diplomats sought to avoid any hint that Washington was meddling in Paraguayan affairs.
Even before Lugo’s election seemed assured, international observers said the voting appeared clean and without disruptive incidents, apart from some scuffles at polling sites. Lugo and others had voiced fears that ruling-party operatives would attempt widespread fraud.
“My congratulations go out to Paraguayans,” said former Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Emma Mejia, who headed an observation mission from the Organization of American States. “People were able to exercise their democratic right to vote. This is a historic day for Paraguay and for Latin America.”
Despite his rhetoric, he has refused to be labeled a leftist, saying he is a centrist responding to the needs of the downtrodden and the teachings of Liberation Theology, a Catholic doctrine favoring the poor and subjugated.
The Vatican has assailed Liberation Theology for Marxist tendencies.
The Vatican also contends that Lugo remains a priest and has violated church law by seeking political office. But Lugo says he is no longer a priest. How that dispute will be resolved remains unclear. Rumors have swirled here that some resolution is in the works between Rome and Asuncion.
The election is a clear rebuke of outgoing President Nicanor Duarte Frutos, who is barred by the constitution from seeking reelection. He pushed for the controversial candidacy of Ovelar, who will go down in Paraguayan history as the Colorado Party’s biggest loser. She would have been the country’s first female president.
Once his victory is certified, Lugo will take office Aug. 15 for a five-year term.