Argentina Is Urged Toward Dialogue to Solve Crisis

Church Offering Its Help to Duhalde

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BUENOS AIRES, JAN. 15, 2002 ( Argentine President Eduardo Duhalde called on his countrymen to engage in a historic process of national dialogue as the only solution to the country´s crisis.

The call to a meeting of “broad and plural” social harmony was transmitted at dinnertime Monday by the national radio and television network.

Describing the crisis as extreme and unprecedented, Duhalde called this dialogue “a historic event,” and he appealed to the “courage and creativity of all Argentines.”

The Catholic Church will contribute the ambit and “its good offices” to this process of dialogue, while the United Nations will offer “technical assistance,” he said. He made the announcement accompanied by Archbishop Estanislao Karlic, president of the episcopal conference, and by Carmelo Angulo, U.N. representative and titular of the Development Program.

Duhalde made his appeal in the garden of the colonial convent of St. Catherine of Siena. Nearby were the three bishops that the Church appointed as delegates for the dialogue: Juan Carlos Maccarone, Jorge Casaretto and Artemio Staffolani.

The government´s appeal for national dialogue involves politicians, businessmen, labor unionists, entrepreneurs, representatives of various religions, intellectuals, military men, and nongovernmental organizations, among others.

The negotiators will be Juan Pablo Cafiero, a leader of the Cabinet and the only center-left official of the Executive; and deputy José María Díaz Bancalari, an unconditional supporter of the president.

“The Argentine dialogue that begins today must be a noble service to the country, which has lost its way and needs the support of hope,” Archbishop Karlic said after Duhalde´s speech.

The archbishop added: “God always keeps his word. It is we men who can fail, and we Argentines have failed, to our sorrow and confusion. However, despite the depth of the crisis, we Argentines do not want to lose hope.”

The agenda of the agreement began to be defined today: the three delegate bishops were to meet with Cafiero and Bancalari, the government´s representatives. The object was to initiate the mobilization of financial sectors, representatives of privatized businesses, and the National Front Against Poverty.

Through the Church´s network, the dialogue project will contact the social sectors of the country´s provinces. The provincial and federal dialogue is designed to lead to a pact that should become state policy until 2010.

The most ambitious observers say that the process must include a profound reform of the state, which would be the object of a plebiscite. “The 1994 reform was a touching up of the Constitution. Now we can aspire to a total reform,” a government source said.

Thus, Duhalde has achieved what Fernando de la Ruá was unable to do, who failed to articulate his intentions to further social harmony. He called a meeting of social agents last month in Caritas´ headquarters in an effort to establish dialogue, but failed to get a positive response, and left the meeting amid a deluge of stones and insults. De la Ruá handed in his resignation 48 hours later.

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