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Even the Church has noticed
Posted by: McQ on Sunday, January 15, 2006

Now this is a post guaranteed to bring the Chavez groupies flocking, but regardless, our buddy's been at it again:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accused a Roman Catholic cardinal Sunday of conspiring against him after the clergyman chastised the leftist leader for eroding democracy and abusing his power.

The exchange was the latest sign of tense relations between the country's Catholic church hierarchy and Chavez, an ally of Cuba who has vowed to introduce a socialist revolution to fight poverty in the world's fifth-largest oil exporter.

"This is part of a provocation, part of a conspiracy, there is nothing innocent about this. It is a plot to destabilize the country," Chavez said on his weekly Sunday broadcast.

"I demand the Catholic hierarchy distance themselves from this ... the least we can expect is for you to reject this man's comments," he said.
Yes, it's another conspiracy against Dear Hugo. Seems Cardinal Rosario Castillo of Venezuela isn't buying Chavez's rhetoric at all:
Tensions rose late Saturday inside a cathedral in Barquisimeto, a city about 205 miles west of Caracas, where Cardinal Rosario Castillo made his remarks during a Mass to mark the end of a holy procession attended by thousands.

Local television on Sunday showed military officers walking out of the ceremony, spectators jeering and others applauding as Venezuela's highest Catholic prelate lamented the country's "grave situation."

"A government democratically elected seven years ago has lost its democratic path and shows signs of dictatorship, where all powers are in the hands of one person who exercises them in an arbitrary and despotic way," Castillo said.
As reported here, there are more than "signs". But seriously, this is pretty mild compared to what is said in real democracies by opposing parties. Why the fuss? Why not let it go?

Well, because the Church is apparently not Hugo's frend and Hugo knows it and isn't pleased. Apparently Chavez understands that they mean to show the world the man behind the curtain for what he is:
The Episcopal conference of Catholic bishops released a report last week challenging Chavez's claims to have bettered the lives of the poor and expressing concerns over the fragility of the country's democracy.

Chavez, who often brandishes a crucifix and evokes Christ when vowing to fight poverty, has clashed with Venezuela's Catholic leaders before, calling them a "cancer" and once branding Castillo a "coup-mongering bandit".
In other words, they're saying "put up or shut up" because they're not seeing what Chavez is claiming. Chavez responds by calling them a cancer and the Cardinal a "bandit". Interesting way to reply.
He has often accused his opponents of plotting to overthrow him since he survived a short-lived coup in 2002.

Venezuela, a predominantly Catholic country of nearly 27 million people, is sharply divided over Chavez's rule but he remains popular ahead of elections in December. His foes appear demoralized after boycotting recent congressional elections.

A former soldier elected in 1998, Chavez has spent billions of dollars in oil revenues on social, education and health programs his supporters say are helping to reverse years of neglect by previous governments.

But his critics say his seven years in power have failed to tackle poverty and chromic crime. They say Chavez has extended his control over independent institutions such as the courts and the electoral authority as he tightens his grip on power.
It will be interesting to see how the Church and Chavez work out this little imbroglio (if, indeed, they're able too). But, as we've seen with Islam, faith is a powerful thing. What will be the effect if Chavez openly goes after the Church and its heirarchy? My guess is, given Castillo's words, that the Church doesn't intend to remain silent.

And it appears that while Chavez may very well have spent billions of dollars of oil revenues, most have been spent on the segment of the population that has supported him ... some of whom are poor. That was a point featured in the article I cited above. So I'm just as interested to see if the Church will continue to demand he prove his claims.

If so, this split could get even dicier and more pronounced. If I had to guess, I'd suggest that in the long run, fighting with the Church in a heavily Catholic country could lead to some trouble for Chavez down the road. As arrogant as he's been to this point, I'd also guess he doesn't believe that to be true. But the Church isn't an institution he can purge and repopulate with his toadies as he has the military and much of the government (to include the electoral commission and the judiciary).

This will be an interesting battle to monitor.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

If history is any indication, what will find is is he’ll end up Banning the church, in the name of the freedom of man of course.
Written By: Bithead
Too bad Catholic prelates in America don’t have the same courage to involve themselves in the public square.

Best way to punish Chavez is with your wallet: and that means stop buying CITGO gasoline until Chavez is removed from power.
Written By: Shaun Kenney
That won’t do anything Shaun.

China will just buy it up instead.
Written By: Tezcatlipoca
URL: http://
Best way to punish Chavez is with your wallet: and that means stop buying CITGO gasoline until Chavez is removed from power.
Oil is an undifferentiated commodity, so it dosent really matter where you buy it from. In reality it all goes into the same pool and is distributed throughout the system. Picking and choosing companies to purchase your gas from is basically a futile exercise.

Written By: Rosensteel
URL: http://
There was a time in Central and South America when the church did represent the interests of the poor and the underclass. It was labeled "Liberation Theology," although it was more complicated than the label would imply. But that was a long time ago. With the ascendancy of John Paul II and his successor Ratzinger, both relatively reactionary, authoritarian, and hierarchical, the Catholic Church became relatively unconcerned with social justice, or the economic well being of the poor.

Frankly speaking, the Catholic Church is out of touch.

Largely unoticed north of the border, the Left is on the rise in Latin America. McQ, of course, would rather focus on Hugo’s various rants than on the fundamental poltical change that is going on in our own hemisphere. The instant post is simply another example.

Witness today the presidential election in traditionally conservative Chile. A majority of voters elected a woman. Not only did they elect a woman, they elected a woman who is separated from her husband. Not only that, she is a Socialist.

Here is what Reuters had to say on the subject:
A Bachelet victory consolidates a shift to the left in Latin America, where leftists now run Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela, some with politics more extreme than others. A socialist will soon take office in Bolivia, and a leftist is favoured to win Mexico’s July presidential election.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, in a weekly broadcast on Sunday, called himself a "good friend" of Bachelet’s.

Chavez, who says he is leading a socialist revolution in his own country, has supported other leftists that have risen to power in Latin America recently as part of his opposition to what he calls U.S. imperialism.

Bachelet is expected to be a pragmatic leftist, following in the footsteps of popular outgoing President Ricardo Lagos.

Investors forecast that she will continue Lagos’ prudent fiscal policies, which have helped turn the copper-producing nation of 16 million people into the region’s most stable economy with one of Latin America’s lowest rates of poverty.

Though she generally has pledged continuity, Bachelet promises deep reform to Chile’s private pension system, which is admired around the world but considered expensive and inadequate at home.

Pinera, a former investment banker and senator who led the rightist alliance, failed to convince Chileans they needed a change after 16 years under the left, despite pledges to create 1 million jobs and put 12,000 more police on the streets.
The cartoonish view popular with the political right in the United States is that Chavez is Castro, enjoys no popular support, and reperesents some kind of communist throwback, some kind of anomaly. The reality, of course, is quite different. Chavez may be more on the extreme end of the spectrum, but he is by no means isolated. Leftists now run most if not all of the biggest economies in Latin America. And many if not most are very friendly with Chavez.

Indeed, I believe that the shift to the left in Latin America is perhaps the most underreported stories of the last couple years. That is not suprising, given the rightward and corporate tilt of the US media.

By contrast, the modern Catholic Church represents the old, rightist interests in Latin America: the landowning class, and the certain military and ex-military officials. Indeed, the loser in the Chilean elections allied himself with the Catholic Church. Here is what had to say on the subject:
In an effort to win votes from politically moderate and Catholic voters in a Jan. 15 presidential runoff, conservative candidate Sebastian Pinera Echenique has placed religion at the heart of his campaign. Pinera, candidate for the National Renewal party and one of the wealthiest businessmen in the country, has sought the backing of members of the Christian Democratic Party and claimed his opponent, Socialist Party member Michelle Bachelet Jeria, is agnostic. One of Pinera’s key advisers is a conservative Catholic theologian. Days after the first round of voting in mid-December, Pinera introduced mid-level Christian Democratic politicians who were backing him, claiming that "Christian Democratic supporters and sympathizers are increasingly turning to me for a very simple reason: They feel we interpret their Christian humanist values much better" than Bachelet, a 54-year old pediatrician, separated mother of three, and victim, like her parents, of human rights abuses during the 1973-90 military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Bachelet served briefly as Chilean health minister before President Ricardo Lagos Escobar appointed her the nation’s first female defense minister in 2002. Pinera also introduced conservative Catholic theologian Fernando Moreno Valencia as one his key advisers. Moreno, a former Christian Democrat and harsh critic of the church’s role defending human rights during the dictatorship, defines himself as a philosopher of Christian humanism and immediately questioned the morality of voting for Bachelet, whom he described as an "atheist candidate." Later, Moreno compared the support Bachelet is receiving to the rise of Germany’s Adolf Hitler, whom he said won the legislative elections in 1933 in an act of "supreme stupidity" that could be reproduced in Chile if Bachelet were elected. Moreno also defended Pinochet, currently under prosecution for human rights crimes and corruption, saying he was a scapegoat and victim of leftist revenge

Of course he did.

Voters in Latin America aren’t stupid, contrary to what the right wing in the United States believes. They understand that the Catholic Church has allied itself with the regressive, elitist, and anti-democratic interests. They are modern, progressive, and forward thinking. And, accordingly and increasingly, they are voting left.

As for the Catholic Church, as long as it continues to ally itself with the old, anti-democratic forces in Latin America, it will continue on its path towards irrelevancy.

Hey McQ - as long as you are interested in matters south of the border, why don’t you enlighten us with your perspective on why the left is taking over the Western Hemisphere and why the favored candidate of the Catholic Church in traditionally conservative Chile went down to defeat. And rather handily.

As always, I can’t wait for your brilliant analysis.

Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
I’ll give a bit of analysis.

Poverty, envy, salesmanship.

Kept artificially alive by the sheer luck of geography.
Written By: John
URL: http://
I’ll give a bit of analysis.

Poverty, envy, salesmanship.

Kept artificially alive by the sheer luck of geography.
Yes - those landlocked Bolvians must be voting left because of the "luck" of their geography.

As for the rest of your "analysis," it rests on the notion that the inhabitants of Latin America - particularly those who are poor - are not only easily misled, but are motivated to vote not on principle, but on envy - a deadly sin. Stated another way, they vote not because they care about their families and their nation and justice. Instead, they are motivated to vote because of their moral depravity. After all, they are poor.

Thanks for espousing the typical winger view. Elitist until the end. (And to think the original post was about the Christian church.) And thanks for your brevity too.

Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
mkultra wrote:
"There was a time in Central and South America when the church did represent the interests of the poor and the underclass. It was labeled "Liberation Theology,""
Liberation Theology is why the Contras where such good people.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Of course, mkultra, you implicitly point out the real issue in your post. The issue dosent seem to be whether or not leftist politics and what it represents is really better for South America. The issue is that voters are drawn to it as the antithesis of their traditionally corrupt US-backed governments. It seems to have little to do with whether or not Latin Americans are truly embracing leftist politics, or whether or not it will truly have the most benefit to their society.

People seem to naturally ally themselves with the opposite end of the spectrum which they find distasteful at the moment. It may not be the most logical of choices, but it is the one that people frequently make.

Conservatives are expected to make big gains in Canada because of issues corruption in the Liberal party. Is it because Canadians truly wish to be more conservative, or out of frustration with the liberal party? Democrats will probably make signifigant gains in the next election in the United States, because of dissatisfaction with the Republican party. We see this theme all over the world, and in history as well.

Vietnam wasnt lost because the Vietnamese people overwhelmingly supported communism. Vietnam became a nationalist struggle, which naturally became associated with the Vietcong. We recently saw protests in Pakistan over US bombings in that country, that largely expressed fundamentalist Islamic sentiment. Is it really that Pakistanis are so much in favor of hardline Islamic thought, or because it is the natural antithesis of what is seen as unwarranted US actions in their country? We saw a similar type of thing occur with the people of the US rallying around the Republican party in the aftermath of 9/11, and that sentiment seems to be finally wavering.

I wouldnt read so much into the widespread support of socialist candidates in Latin America, mkultra. So long as the democratic system in these countries remains largely in tact, there will likely be a reverse shift in a few years or a few decades as people react to the perceived inadequacy of the people they are electing now. That just seems to be the way the world works.
Written By: Rosensteel
URL: http://
He reminds me of a guy we know who used to sprinkle references to mothers -
"This will be the Mother of all victories", "the mother of all defeats" and
Allah "by the grace of Allah...Allah willing....praise Allah" into a lot of his speeches....

That’s right, it’s time to guess the oil wielding dictator! He just needs
a little more time and cultivation to grow up into a big world problem
instead of a regional one. All the right ingredients are in place.
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Hey McQ - as long as you are interested in matters south of the border, why don’t you enlighten us with your perspective on why the left is taking over the Western Hemisphere and why the favored candidate of the Catholic Church in traditionally conservative Chile went down to defeat. And rather handily.

Well yeah, but you see, MK, that wasn’t unexpected since she was the nation’s secretary of defense and a part of the already ruling party (that’s how she became SecDef).

You need to keep up.

Lastly, as we’ve noted here, Latin America has a political tradition of swining heavily between the poles of left and right. One hopes, someday, to see that moderated to the point that more centerist candidates and parties have a chance. What we’re seeing now isn’t unexpected in that regard and, as I’m attempting to chronicle with Chavez, still tends toward dictatorship, whether left or right. The fight isn’t necessarily whether the winner is a socialist or not but whether, as Rosensteel notes, the democratic institutions remain in place so when the inevitable change happens, it can happen legimately.

In Venezuela, it seems less and less likely. In Chile it seems to be working rather well.
Written By: McQ
Those who followed Liberation Theology actually CARED FOR the poor. Sure, they couldn’t actually make them less poor and probably made them more poor, but that’s not the point, is it?

I will be waiting for a brilliant analysis about how Clile is not located in Latin America.
Written By: Leftism = Slave Morality
Funny how none of them if ever notice that every time it’s been tried making the rich, less so, didn’t deter the plight of the poor. It only changed who was rich.

Written By: Bithead
deter=better (arrgh)
Written By: Bithead
MK’s inconsistency rears its head again. He says:

’As for the rest of your "analysis," it rests on the notion that the inhabitants of Latin America - particularly those who are poor - are not only easily misled, but are motivated to vote not on principle, but on envy - a deadly sin. Stated another way, they vote not because they care about their families and their nation and justice. Instead, they are motivated to vote because of their moral depravity. After all, they are poor.’

Isn’t this essentially the argument made in "What’s the Matter with Kansas"? Poor red-staters are just too stupid to know what’s good for them. They vote for Republicans and that can’t possibly be in their best interest. The right-wing machine has manipulated those poor, misguided Bible-thumping idiots.

Now, I ask, why are you quick to believe this but easily dismiss it when it involves those voting for socialism?
Written By: Tom
URL: http://
Before you guys go too far into the woods on this whole "socialists winning elections" thing, here’s some additional information on the Chilean elections from Publius Pundit.
Written By: Jon Henke
I’ll say it again, as I did on another thread and above: I have no problem with Bachelet’s victory in Chile. She’s a part of, and has been a part of, a center-left coalition which has been market friendly and conducted fair elections.

I see nothing in Chile which reminds me of the present circumstances in Venezuela except the leaning of the government. This is the one the people of Chile freely choose. More power to them.

Written By: McQ
"Socialist" seems to have become a catch-all political persuasion in Latin America, just like "Labour" has in many other western nations. The election of a greater number of socialist governments in Latin America means little, because they encompass a wide variety of opinions.
Written By: Rosensteel
URL: http://
So too, does socialism itself. All nearly equal in their destructive capacity.
Written By: Bithead
Not really. In the real world, some form of socialism is a given. The debate comes down largely to what degree. Most people beleive in socialist policies to some degree, although most would not label it as such.

Most Americans, afterall, support some sort of notion of socialized primary education and universal access. Even proponents of school vouchers only wish to introduce the market into the rendering of the service, while maintaining the universal and state funded nature of education.

Depending on how far right you wish to go, the simple existance of the state is an exercise in socialism. Most people seem to be quite happy with our socialist state-run military, and are in no hurry to privatize it.

It is all a matter of degree, really. Just as no matter how hard they may try, socialist can never truly eliminate the forces of the market — no matter how hard those on the opposite end of the spectrum try, there will always be vestiges of socialism.
Written By: Rosensteel
URL: http://
How many people have died because of the depravity of that mad religion of socialism, Rosensteel? Millions have, Rosensteel, millions. How many poor people give their life trying to get into places like Cuba? How many give their life trying to get into the United States?

You cannot help a poor man by harming a rich one!

As far as I can tell, "liberation" theology is just another euphemism for socialism; since it bears none of the fruit of Christ. There is no such thing as social justice. You either have justice or injustice. The only kind of equality in existence is equality under God and before the law.
Written By: Charles D. Quarles

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