From Perón to Bergoglio. With the People, Against Globalization

The presidential election in Argentina is drawing attention back to the political vision of Pope Francis. His enthusiasm for the “popular movements.” The utopia of a new communist and “papist” International

by Sandro Magister

ROME, August 12, 2015 – A primary election held in Argentina last Sunday has seen increased interest on account of Jorge Mario Bergoglio being a citizen of that country.

The actual presidential election is scheduled for next October 25, with a possible runoff the following November 24 if no candidate surpasses 40 percent of the votes in the first round, exceeding the runner-up by at least 10 points.

But on Sunday, August 9 the primaries were held for the designation of candidates in the running for the Casa Rosada. The president in office, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, is at the end of her second four-year term, and is therefore not eligible for reelection. The question going into the primary was the victory or defeat of her candidate for successor, and therefore the continuation or end of Kirchnerism, in power continually from 2003 first with Nestor Kirchner and then with his wife, widowed in 2010.

The response at the ballot box did not entirely solve the mystery.

Daniel Scioli, 58, the outgoing president of the region of Buenos Aires and the candidate of Frente para la Victoria, Kirchner’s party, received 38.3 percent of the votes.

But Mauricio Macrí, a center-right businessman and former president of the Boca Juniors soccer team, the outgoing mayor of the city of Buenos Aires and leader of the party Propuesta Republicana, was not far behind with 30.2 percent.

And then there is the “third man,” Sergio Massa, head of the Frente Renovador, a moderate version of Kirchnerism, with 20.6 percent.

In the illustration beneath the headline the two leading rivals, Scioli and Macrí, pose in front of a portrait of Francis at the latest Buenos Aires Book Fair. And the question is: which of the two does the pope prefer? But even before that: what does each of them represent?

In the run-up to the Argentine primaries, Professor Marco Olivetti, full professor of constitutional law at the University of Foggia and a leading expert on political systems, described Kirchnerism in itself and in the context of Latin America, in an in-depth article in “Avvenire”:

“Kirchnerism is the latest reincarnation of Peronism: after the original, vaguely fascistic form of Juan Domingo Perón and Evita; the free-market conservative form of the dying Perón and his third wife, Isabelita, during the 1970’s; and the neoliberal form of Carlos Menem during the 1990’s.

“It constitutes the socialistic variation, in continuity with the para-revolutionary groups that infested Argentina in the early 1970’s, and is upheld by traditional Peronist trade unionism. Its support is particularly high among persons with low incomes and little education.

“Its distinguishing mark is populism, identification with a good ‘people,’ now inflected according to the political terrain prevalent in much of Latin America, from the Venezuela of Chávez and his heirs to the Bolivia of Morales, from the Brazil of Lula and Dilma to the Ecuador of Correa, albeit with all the differences of the various cases.”

Scioli’s main opponent, Macrí, instead represents the coalition of Cambiemos, which in addition to the Propuesta Republicana includes the Unión Cívica Radical, which was the other major Argentine party in the 1990’s, in opposition to the Peronists, and the Coalición Cívica para la Afirmación de una República Igualitaria, created in 2002 and still led by the Catholic jurist and deputy Elisa Carrió.

The first Argentine woman to run for the Casa Rosada, opposed to the decriminalization of abortion and to gay marriage but in favor of the legal recognition of homosexual unions, Carriò is a longtime friend of Bergoglio. She predicted his election as pope back in 2001.

But she makes no mystery, today, of maintaining that Francis is playing mistaken political “cards” in Argentina, in support of Kirchnerism, with the risk of seeing his country end up like Venezuela, from which only a thorough free-market reform could save it.

There are no explicit statements from Pope Francis that would substantiate such a judgment. But that he has a political vision of his own for Argentina and for the Latin American “great homeland” is beyond a doubt, to judge from some of the actions and remarks of his pontificate.

The recent papal journey to Ecuador, Bolivia, and Paraguay was revealing. Francis did not conceal his affinity for the populist presidents of the first two countries, while with the third, a conservative, he demonstrated coldness, to the point of rebuking him publicly for a crime he never committed, glaringly misunderstood by the pope:

> Father Lombardi, the Mouth of Truth (29.7.2015)

But the true political “manifesto” of pope Bergoglio was the lengthy speech he gave in Santa Cruz, Bolivia to the anti-globalization “popular movements” of Latin America and the rest of the world, which he gathered around him for a second time less than a year after the previous meeting in Rome, in both cases with a seat in the front for the “cocalero” president of Bolivia, Evo Morales:

> To the second world meeting of popular movements, July 9, 2015
> To the first world meeting of popular movements, October 28, 2014

Rereading these two speeches, it is striking how their “distinguishing mark” – to borrow the words of Marco Olivetti – is “populism, identification with a good ‘people,’” precisely what characterizes in Argentina the socialistic Peronism of the Kirchner era, during which the recipients of state funds tripled and now total 15.3 million, 36 percent of the population.

The “people” in which Pope Francis sees the avant-garde of a worldwide revolution against the transnational empire of money is the one that he himself describes as made up of “waste-collectors, recyclers, peddlers, seamstresses or tailors, artisans, fishermen, farmworkers, builders, miners.” To them belongs – he says – the future of humanity. Thanks to a process of their rise to power that “overflows the logical procedures of formal democracy.”

In the judgment of James V. Schall, former professor of political philosophy at Georgetown University in Washington, the speech in Santa Cruz is “pure Bergoglio,” with a political vision “closer to Joachim of Fiore than to Augustine of Hippo”:

> Apocalyptic and Utopian: On Pope Francis’ Bolivian Manifesto

But also from Cristina Kirchner’s party and from the Bergoglian circles there have come gestures of calculated support for these perspectives of the pope.

Last March, Argentine minster of culture Teresa Parodi organized in the immense and jam-packed Teatro Cervantes, in downtown Buenos Aires, a Foro Internacional por la Emancipación y la Igualdad that lined up the worldwide “stars” of the anti-capitalist opposition.

And on the afternoon of March 13 there came to the microphone one after another the Brazilian Leonardo Boff, the liberation theologian who converted to the religion of mother earth, the Italian Gianni Vattimo, philosopher of “weak thought,” and the Argentine Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, archbishop chancellor of the pontifical academies of sciences and of social sciences and a key advisor of pope Bergoglio.

To great applause and with a satisfied Sánchez Sorondo beside him, Vattimo made the case for a new communist and “papist” International, with Francis as its undisputed leader, the only one capable of leading a political, cultural, and religious revolution against the excessive power of money, in the “civil war” underway in the world that – he said – is disguised as a fight against terrorism but is in reality the class conflict of the 21st century against the multitude of all the opponents of capitalism.

Seeing is believing. Vattimo’s harangue, in Spanish, is between the 15 and 51-minute mark of the video of this session of the forum, followed by remarks from Sánchez Sorondo and Boff:

> Foro “Emancipación e Igualdad” – Actualidad de las Tradiciones Emancipatorias


English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.


About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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