Latin Bishops Rebuke 'Neoliberal Bandits.'(includes Related Articles)
Coleman, Bill, Coleman, Patty, Wirpsa, Leslie, National Catholic Reporter
CUAUTITLAN IZCALLI, Mexico - CELAM, the Latin American bishops' council, meeting here May 1-7, issued scathing condemnations of neoliberal capitalism, the drug trade and the United States.
"Neoliberal capitalism carries injustice and inequality in its genetic code," said Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, who was elected president of the conference.
In contrast to bishops gatherings in other countries, this one included few, if any, comments about abortion or birth control.
"Latin America is poor, and its people are poor because they have been exploited by the rich. The '90's could become another lost decade for the progress of the people of the region, since up until now we have only seen more impoverishment," he said.
The neoliberal economic model is not the panacea promised and will not help us overcome our crisis. Corruption has become the AIDS of all Latin America. People want to enrich themselves from night till morning with easy money coming from governments or narco-trafficking."
Rodriguez said the pastoral work of Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia in Chiapas, provided a good example for all of Latin America.
Archbishop Roberto Lucker Leon of Coro, Venezuela, told NCR, "The bugaboo for many years was communism, but which is worse, communism or these neoliberal bandits without conscience who have the dollar as their god?
"The final alert for Latin America is Chiapas. It is the last call and a reminder to our leaders, both political and religious, of the terrible marginalization that beats down the countries who have a large indigenous population."
Elaborating on the role of Chiapas bishop Ruiz, Lucker said, "My brother from San Cristobal assumed the role of voice of the people he has to pastor and a people that demand his help. Not to do it would be to be a mute dog who does not bark when there is danger."
When asked about the inroads of Protestant sects in Latin America, Lucker blamed U.S. foreign policy, the aim of which, he said, "is to try to `de-Catholicize' Latin America, for that is the only way to control it."
In their concluding statement, "Latin America: Arise and Walk," the 70 bishops, from the hierarchies of 22 Caribbean, Central and South American countries, made a moral judgment against neoliberal capitalism which they said has caused "the impoverishment and misery of millions of Latin Americans."
They proposed "an economy at the service of humankind rather than at the service of groups of powerful people." They called for "a regional solidarity to overcome the economic, social, corruption, narco-trafficking and migration problems which neoliberalism has caused."
The bishops quietly settled the struggle for leadership of the conference by electing the more conservative candidate, Rodriguez Maradiaga, president and his progressive opponent, Jesuit Luciano Mendes de Almeida of Mariana, Brazil, first vice president. They then elected a Cuban, Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino of Havana, second vice president.
Rodriguez Maradiaga, 52, is a Salesian who holds a clinical psychology degree from Innsbruck and a moral theology degree from Rome. He has held various offices in CELAM including secretary-general and treasurer.
Mendes de Almeida, 65, is the principal promoter of the "theology of the excluded." He was nominated for president of CELAM by Team Amerindia, a group of theologians, sociologists and bishops who strongly insist on the role of the church in overcoming the marginalization of Latin America's poor.
"The theology of the excluded," Mendes de Almeida told NCR, "is a theological reflection on the phenomenon of the marginated masses caused by the structural changes that follow the economic model of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. When they were few and ignorant, the excluded were insignificant historically. Now we see that great masses are outside of national development as well as social and political organization. …