Tuesday, March 03, 2009

THE RISE OF THE "RED BISHOP" - Liberation Theology et al

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During the Marcos' Martial Law years, I read much about Latin America's Banana
and latters' various military dictatorships that seem to endlessly result in coups and countercoups; where the military rulers essentially were subservient to the foreign companies (mostly Americans) and their local oligarchs.

I used to tell myself then that we Filipinos were still in a better sociopolitical and economic state than all of them. Fast forward today, we find that we Filipinos and our homeland have now retrogressed into a worse socioeconomic-political state in comparison to most of these Latin American peoples/nations!

The dominant Catholic Church, via its CBCP (we can throw in the other Christian churches/varieties) has not really worked for fundamental reforms that should have emanated from its social teachings highlighted by the Vatican II Council . Instead, it has withdrawn to its usual excuse "give to Caesar.." ad nauseam.

Our Filipino Catholic Church and its members essentially retreat to its shell or bunker of religiosity/piety and therefore by default, maybe unconsciously, selfish individualism. Maybe their God wants our majority to suffer now for the happiness in the hereafter.

Now let's look at Paraguay (I just remember Amado!) a not-so-often mentioned country in Latin America, and we find a former Catholic Bishop doing what none of ours apparently would be willing to do. That's how by default our Catholic hierarchy has become pro-establishment, its continuing saga of ala-Spanish friars of old.

Below article talks about the new President of Paraguay, a former Roman Catholic Bishop.

“I helped the poor and they called me a saint, I asked why they were poor and they called me a Communist’ – Brazilian Bishop Helder Camara (1909-1999)

“Nations, whose NATIONALISM is destroyed, are subject to ruin.” - Colonel Muhammar Qaddafi, 1942-, Libyan Political and Military Leader)

“There is no literate population in the world that is poor; there is no illiterate population that is anything but poor.” – John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006)

Rise of the Red Bishop

The Guardian, Thursday August 14th 2008

For 61 years the Colorado Party has ruled without interruption through democracy and dictatorship. But on August 15 the former bishop Fernando Lugo will take over as the first 'different' president of Paraguay. Known as 'The Good', 'The Bishop of the Poor' and 'The Red Bishop', for many he is seen as part of the new Latin American left that includes regional leaders such as Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Rafael Correa of Ecuador. But most of all, for many Paraguayans he represents the change they have been waiting for.

Lead article photo

Fernando Lugo says he still belongs in the Catholic church. Photograph: Courtesy of the Alianza Patriotica para el Cambio/Rafael Urzua

I am convinced Fernando Lugo has a public path that started in the church. A path the people have known of me, as a student, as a professional, as a teacher, as priest, as a missionary, as a bishop. And I think Paraguayans have discovered in this man a person, somebody that, above all, has put all his attitude of serving at the service of everybody. That includes his love for his country, its people, and most of all the excluded ones, the humble, the poor. -

From the church I started helping the most disadvantaged. I think that is one of the reasons why the people gave me their vote of confidence. Most of all, I think they placed their vision, their desire for change, on me. And I don't want to let them down. I believe that the credibility I have shown is what made the people reply with so much love, appreciation and affection.

First, I want to tidy up the house. Here in Paraguay we have chaos. There are things that make one want to cry. For ages we have been giving the impression of not being a serious country. We have to change that. We have to show all citizens how the country really is. Transparency and honesty will be two of the fundamental characteristics of what I want to do. And the change will be to clean the face and the interior of the country. For Paraguay to recover its dignity as a nation, to be credible as a country, we have to erase the stigma of being a pirate country, a country of traffickers, a corrupt country.

Bad administration and corruption have grown strong roots and are widely developed in our society. Poverty in Paraguay is another clear stigma. Paraguay has not been giving opportunities and equity to people so they can show their potential.

We have to create conditions for more solidarity, more equality. I strongly believe Paraguay is a rich country with many poor. And that is simply scandalous. I strongly believe that in Paraguay we can no longer avoid starting a process of agrarian reform. Land tenancy here is scandalous. We need to start a proper development plan that will help all Paraguayans.

When I was elected president, Bolivia’s president [Evo Morales] welcomed me to the "axis of evil". I always asked where that expression came from. I do believe there is no such "axis of evil" but simply countries that have been labelled like that, countries that simply want the best for their people, for the people that have been excluded for so long. So we are going to be part of those progressive governments that always go for the benefit of their people.

I want a serious country. If we want a serious country we will then, regionally speaking, have to follow Uruguay and Chile closely. I want a country with big development, with equality, so then we will have to follow Brazil closely in that great search. I want a country that is respected in its sovereignty, then maybe we will be close to Venezuela or Bolivia or Ecuador. I will have to take into consideration the positive points other Latin American leaders have. But we re-affirm that we want to have our own process, and there will be elements that will differentiate me from other Latin American leaders. But I am sure I will coincide in many elements. This is our process and we will do it ourselves, from the inside but with the justice and solidarity of other countries.

I became a priest in the late 1970s and served as a missionary in Ecuador and there I embraced "liberation theology" and its focus on the poor. Yet, despite Rome's suspicion of what for some was viewed as a subversive movement, I slowly moved up the hierarchy to become a bishop in 1994. In my 11 years as bishop of San Pedro [central Paraguay], I worked closely with peasant movements. Gradually, though, I came to feel that I could change more as a politician. But I was and still am a member of the Catholic church.

A lot of disinformation or simply lack of information makes people think I am not part of the church any longer. I feel that, more than ever, I belong to this church. Today, with a new role, as a laic, but the pope himself recommended me never to abandon the faith in which I was formed, and less so the evangelic values. I take those words to heart. I will still be inside the church and inside the framework of a church that is a community, that speaks out the values of the kingdom of God.

Before I felt there were lot of constrictions and due to various situations my decision to get into politics was a process in which the citizens themselves asked me to jump into a more political role. I do believe the church does an excellent job, an evangelical mission, but if we are pushing for change that is not enough. We have to take the unfair structures of society and push for change from there in order to start a change in the whole of society. The liberation theology is an element of my formation. But it is not all. There's also a philosophical, political, sociological formation in me. Human sciences put the human being at the centre and that has an influence on my relationship with people. And we are going to do this now from the presidency.

Without doubt it is possible to resurrect a country like Paraguay. We are people of hope, of faith, and I won't be the one killing that hope of the people. I do believe we will resurrect this country, a country deeply drowned in misery, poverty and discrimination. Because I do believe Paraguay could be different. I do not lack faith in this flock. Where there is a scream coming from the poor people, where there is sweat, where people are shoeless, we will be there. Because in such people there is a resurrection; if that exists there, then there is resurrection for Paraguay. Here there is a Guaraní [indigenous person] saying: "The padre has spoken, and so be it."

Fernando Lugo was speaking to Andrés Schipani in Asunción.

Source: http://www.guardianweekly.co.uk/?page=editorial&id=691&catID=1



Explore the challenges facing new president Fernando Lugo.
Fernando Lugo’s triumph in the Paraguayan presidential election on April 20, 2008, is historic because it marks the end of the Colorado Party’s hegemony after more than 60 years. Known as the “Bishop of the Poor” by his supporters and the “Red Bishop” by his right-wing opponents, Lugo formed a coalition made up of 10 political parties, mostly left or center-left, 20 social organizations, trade unions, small farmers and indigenous associations.

The central theme of his campaign was poverty reduction and land reform. His agrarian reform policy was most significant because it addressed Paraguay’s highly unequal distribution of land that, after Bolivia, is the second most unequal in Latin America, where 40% live in poverty and 20% in absolute poverty. 77% of the country’s fertile land is controlled by one percent of the landowners. One of his first acts as president was to apologize in the name of the state to the victims of human rights violations during the 1954-1989 Stroessner dictatorship.

While Paraguay remained a backwater for most of the colonial period because of the absence of natural resources for international trade, now the country’s enormous water resources are being coveted by transnational corporations like Coca Cola and its hydro-electric power being generated by Itaipu plant 10 km north of Iguassu Falls currently provides cheap energy for Brazil and Argentina. The Guarani Aquifer, is one of the world’s largest reserves of water.

In recent years the resistance to multinational agro-producers of soy like Monsanto, Dupont, Cargill, and ADM have led to repression of social movements. Paraguay is the world’s fourth largest exporter of soybeans, and every year more than 24 million liters of hazardous pesticides are sprayed on soy crops alone. Illness and deaths in communities located near the soy plantations have resulted in migration to cities without jobs to support the influx.

This delegation will meet with social movement leaders to explore the controversy around mono-crop soy production. In addition we’ll talk to indigenous groups, small farmer associations, trade unionists and government officials to learn about the inequalities and corruption that the new president is facing. We hope to address the issues of US militarization (largest military base in Latin America) as well as the anti-terrorism law that criminalizes protest.

[The $1000 delegation fee (subject to change) will include itinerary, guides, housing, at least two meals a day, and in-country transportation. It does not include travel to and from Paraguay. For more information and an application, contact: Dale Sorensen, 415/924-3227 or geodale1@earthlink.net.]

Source: http://soaw.org/docs/ParaguayDel2009.pdf

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