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from issue no. 06 - 2003


The President and the Cardinal

by Gianni Valente

The new president Nestor Kirchner, during the ceremony of inauguration ( at which, along with others, the Brazilian President Inàcio Lula da Silva, the Venezuelan President Hugo Chàvez and the Cuban lider màximo Fidel Castro participated) delivered a programmatic speech before the Congress which contained elements of marked discontinuity with respect to the policies which dominated Argentina in the ’nineties. It was he, considered the least charismatic of the candidates, voted by the Argentines without too much enthusiasm, only to avoid the nightmare of Menem’s return, who attempted to touch the chords of pride in his fellow citizens, outlining a policy of “national capitalism”: the reinstatement of a positive role for the state to “bring equality where the market excludes and abandons”, beginning with the elementary recognition that “ the problem of poverty will not get resolved if the starting point is a social programme, but must begin with economic policies”. Kirchner wished to emphasize that Argentina’s monumental foreign debt “cannot be paid off at the cost of hunger and exclusion”, but must relate to real economic recovery. On the international front his priority is to be “the construction of a politically stable Latin America, prosperous and united on the basis of the ideals of democracy and social justice, and on regional integration in the context of Mercosur [the project for a common market in which Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay already participate, with Bolivia and Chile as associates]”. The first moves of the new government confirmed the desire to stand with Lula’s Brazil, especially in questions of economic and international policies. “It’s as if in the elections our countries had been won by the same party”, the new Argentine Minister for Foreign Affairs Rafael Bielsa said.
On the same day as the Presidential inauguration, the sermon given by the Cardinal Primate of Argentina Jorge Maria Bergoglio, during the Te Deum celebrated for the anniversary of the May Revolution, also touched the heart of the country with words of realism and Christian solidarity in the face of the sufferings of the Argentine people through a well developed comparison with the Gospel account of the Good Samaritan: “If we set out walking we inevitably come across the wounded man. Today, and increasingly so, the injured are the majority. Of humanity and in our country. [....] The inclusion or exclusion of the wounded person by the wayside defines all economic, political, social and religious projects. All of us, each day, are presented with the option of being Good Samaritans or indifferent passers-by”. The Archbishop of Buenos Aires alluded to the images and characters in the Gospel parable in reference to international business speculation and to the social and political inertia which “are turning this earth into a desolate transit”. He quoted the poetic prophecy of Martìn Fierro, the emblem of the country: “our eternal and sterile hates and egoism open the doors to those who devour us from outside”. He attacked the alliance between “ ‘the highway robbers ” and “ ‘those who look the other way’ ”. And he described “the sinking of a people into distress” as “the closing of a perfect vicious circle: the invisible dictatorship of real interests, those hidden interests which have taken over the resources and our capacity to evaluate and to think”. In order to climb out of the rubble, the Cardinal suggested, his fellow-citizens should not recriminate about the past but return to concrete and small-scale politics: “It is necessary to begin from the beginning and involve ourselves individually in the most concrete and local questions, even in the remotest corner of the country, with the same care with which the Samaritan tended every wound of the injured man. Let us not trust in the same old recipes or in alleged reports on the state of things”. And encouraging a patriotic response (“Where there had been a desolate land our founding fathers ,and those who later peopled our country, created work and made heroism, organization and social care flourish”), he concluded by entrusting to Mary the plea that remembrance of Christians return to be of comfort to the whole nation: “Let us take care of the weakness of our wounded people. Everyone with his own wine, his own oil, and his own horse. Let us take care of the weakness of our country, everyone paying out of his own pocket what is necessary so that our land may be a place of comfort for everyone, nobody excluded. [....] That Our Mother, Most Holy Mary of Lujàn, who has remained amongst us and who accompanies us along the path of our history as a sign of consolation and hope, may hear our prayer as wayfarers, may comfort and encourage us to follow the example of Christ, He who bears our weakness on his shoulders”.


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