Crying for Argentina

Church Leaders Lament Economic and Social Woes

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BUENOS AIRES, JULY 13, 2001 ( Argentina is in dire straits — economically, ethically and socially, say Church leaders.

Archbishop Edgardo Gabriel Storni, of the Diocese of Santa Fe de la Vera Cruz, said that Argentina is more «prostrate» today than «ever before in her history.»

In a message entitled «In face of the Argentine Situation,» signed also by officials of his diocese and published Thursday, the archbishop said that the economic measures announced by the executive power on Wednesday, «with delegated legislative faculties, demonstrate once again, in the absence of a real plan for the country, the ineptitude and dishonesty of so many leaders to find in-depth solutions in which the so often mentioned and permanently postponed honesty of the state and social justice should come into play. In other words, the ethical.»

It continued: «Once again, one is faced with the first factor of the present economic chaos, the foreign debt, which should be reviewed technically and morally.»

Bond and equity markets in Argentina have lost roughly a third of their value since early June amid growing uncertainty over the nation´s ability to sustain its exchange rate peg to the U.S. dollar and meet its debt obligations, the Financial Times reported today.

«Given the announced measures,» the Santa Fe Diocese statement said, «there is continuing cruel subjugation of the sectors that are unjustly weak and vulnerable in our society: the family, children, workers, the retired and pensioners, the sick … thus increasing the existing gap between the multitude of poor, who are increasingly poor, and the rich minority, who are increasingly rich.»

The Santa Fe Diocese laments that «the narrow-mindedness, the sector and personal egoism, and the open servility of the state vis-à-vis the international empire of usury, has led to this total colonialism of the Argentine nation, compromising the destiny of future generations.»

The diocese also denounced the «real slap» that the people of Santa Fe have received from their representatives because, «in complicity with their questionable interests and terrible coldness of soul, they pretend to legitimize the illegitimate: gambling houses, which would add the slavery of vice to the existing misery, with the consequent greater moral prostration.»

Priests of the Florencio Varela deanery, of the Quilmes Diocese, also published a statement expressing their «sorrow and enormous concern given the progressive and accelerated deterioration of the conditions of life» of the people of this area of the south of Buenos Aires.

The Quilmes priests expressed their commitment «to the primary right to earn one´s daily bread,» something that many inhabitants of Florencio Varela are denied. The priests also noted their opposition to «egotistical and insensitive interests that punish thousands of the innocent: [because of] illegitimate and mafioso-type pressures to manipulate the price of bread.»

The priests also expressed their alarm over the constant threats to bakers of their district, limiting «the freedom of prices and the right to sell [bread] for less than a peso per kilo,» and obliging bakers to charge a price that is «inaccessible to the poor.»

Meanwhile, Archbishop Estanislao Karlic of Parana, president of the Argentine bishops´ conference, huddled with Cardinal Raúl Francisco Primatesta, president of the bishops´ Commission for Social Pastoral Care, and Monsignor Ramon Staffolani, executive secretary of the commission, to discuss the nation´s social situation.

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