Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Pope criticized for sex abuse scandals in Chile (Jan. 17, 2018)

Pope Francis apologized to Chileans for priest abuses of minors. "Here I feel bound to express my pain and shame at the irreparable damage caused to children by some ministers of the church," he said.

Activists say the pontiff's greatest failure is not taking enough action protect children from clerical sex abuse and punish priests for perpetrating it, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The pope aims to contain fallout from a series of sexual abuse scandals that have contributed to the decline of Catholicism in several regions. But immediately after his speech with President Michelle Bachelet at the presidential palace, Francis celebrated Mass in Santiago alongside Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, a city in southern Chile. Barros has been accused of covering up for priest who abused teenagers, reports the New York Times.

The scandal centers around Father Fernando Karadima, a Santiago priest found guilty by a 2011 Vatican inquiry of sexual and psychological abuse in 2011, 27 years after the first complaints about him were made. He was forced to retire, and sentenced to a lifetime of "penance and prayer." Critics were angered when the the Pope appointed Barros bishop of Osorno, though Barros denies accusation that he knew of Karadima's abuses.

Three churches were firebombed on yesterday, the first full day of the pope’s visit to Chile, bringing the total of churches attacked since Friday to nine. Nobody has been injured in the attacks. The pontiff had hoped to make environmental concerns the centerpiece of this Latin America tour, which will also take him to Peru. But has instead encountered anger about sexual abuse scandals and accusations of clerical elitism, reports the Guardian. A poll carried out by a Santiago radio station before the pope’s visit found that 90 percent of Chileans wanted Francis to meet survivors and condemn Karadima.

"Chileans of all kinds see the way the pope addresses the Karadima case as a litmus test," wrote Ariel Dorfman in a New York Times op-ed last week. "Pope Francis will be welcomed in Chile as a reformer, as an important voice for the vulnerable and the neglected. The faithful and the nonbelievers alike respect the Catholic Church because some of its most prominent leaders championed human rights during Pinochet’s dictatorship, defying threats, death squads and persecution."

"And yet the daring Chilean church is now scarred and discredited by Father Karadima’s depredations, by the fact that he was sheltered by those who should have judged and punished him. A criminal case was opened, as in almost 75 other cases of priestly abuse, but the judges indicated that the statute of limitations barred them from indicting Father Karadima."

"Pope Francis needs to deal with this lack of accountability and justice in the next few days."

Yesterday Francis met privately with a group of victims of sexual abuse by priests in the Vatican's Santiago mission, reports the BBC. No further details were provided.

Other critics focused on the cost of the papal visit, estimated at $17 million.
News Briefs
  • Later this week, Pope Francis will visit Peru’s epicenter of illegal gold mining, Madre de Dios. His visit will help draw attention to an increasingly acute problem in the region -- pushing deforestation, environmental devastation, and exploiting workers in the region, according to the Miami Herald. "To stop the unrelenting environmental and human devastation, an array of competing interests will have to collaborate to extract gold in a more humane way, according to workers’ rights advocates, environmentalists and industry experts." Its the kind of sweeping change that pushed to clean up the diamond industry.
  • As Catholicism falls in Latin America, Evangelicals are on the rise, and now account for 20 percent of the population, writes Javier Corrales in a New York Times op-ed. "Evangelical pastors embrace varied ideologies, but when it comes to gender and sexuality, their values are typically conservative, patriarchal and homophobic. ... The rise of evangelicalism is politically worrisome. Evangelicals are fueling a new form of populism. They are supplying conservative parties with nonelite voters, which is good for democracy, but these voters tend to be intransigent on issues of sexuality, which feeds cultural polarization. Intolerant inclusion, which is the classic Latin American populist formula, is being reinvented by evangelical pastors." Evangelicals are helping Latin American conservatives overcome their most significant handicap, he writes, their lack of non-elite voters.
  • B-movie actor and Venezuelan rebel Oscar Pérez was killed in a shootout with government forces yesterday, along with seven other members of what the government has characterized as a "terrorist cell." Rights groups are questioning the use of force, after Pérez said in a series of videos on social media that he was seeking to surrender, the New York Times has a compilation. Pérez reportedly told an ally that special forces had orders not to take anybody alive, reports the Miami Herald, which says the deaths may have been extrajudicial executions. Rights advocates say special forces used excessive force and didn't permit the dissident group to surrender, reports the Wall Street Journal. Opposition lawmakers are calling for a transparent inquiry into the deaths, reports the Associated Press. Ousted attorney general Luisa Ortega, who seeks to have Maduro administration officials tried in the International Criminal Court, seized on the episode as an example of rights violations. "The world could see in real time how this guy wanted to surrender and manifested his will to turn himself in," she said. Pérez had been on the run since last year, when he stole a helicopter and launched grenades at a government building. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Some Venezuelan officials say tourism could help rescue the country from a deep economic crisis. But realists point to scarcities that have led some hotels to ration toilet paper, alongside high crime rates and hyperinflation, and are more skeptical, reports the Washington Post.
  • The U.S. Treasury Department warned that Venezuela's planned cryptocurrency could violate sanctions against the government, reports Reuters.
  • Separately, the E.U. will likely hit seven senior Venezuelan officials with sanctions next week, in a bid to push the government to resolve an ongoing political crisis, reports Reuters.
  • Homicides in El Salvador have dropped, along with rates in the rest of Central America's "Northern Triangle." Violence continues to be sky-high, but nonetheless, preventive programs implemented in these countries offer lessons to policy makers, argue Robert Muggah and Katherine Aguirre in Americas Quarterly. Though El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras all run the risk of deepening "mano dura" policies, and have entrenched corruption, "there are signs of a gradual turn to softer approaches to security, partly as a result of outside pressure from international and bilateral partners. After years of quiet investment, some of the benefits of this approach are becoming more apparent." The article was written ahead of the Urban Security Exchange (USX), to be hosted by the Igarapé Institute, USAID and Foropaz next week in San Salvador.
  • Guatemalan president Jimmy Morales shuffled his cabinet yesterday, changing his ministers for the environment, the economy and social development, reports Reuters.
  • There are indications that the Colombian government could aim to use military pressure against the rebel group ELN in order to gain the upper hand peace negotiations, reports InSight Crime. The strong military response to attacks in the wake of an expired cease-fire last week could also be related to elections in Colombia later this year, notes the piece. On the side of the guerrillas, it's not clear whether they indicate divisions within the group or whether its a strategy to gain the upper hand in the negotiations.
  • The WHO said yesterday that Sao Paulo state, is at risk for yellow fever and recommended foreign travelers get vaccinated before visiting, reports the BBC.
  • Market jitters at former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's popularity are unwarranted, Workers Party leader Gleisi Hoffmann told Bloomberg. Lula leads polls for October's presidential election, though its not clear whether a criminal conviction will prevent him from running. Nonetheless, Lula's history is not radical and he is committed to fiscal responsibility, said Hoffmann. The former leader is working on a letter to the public regarding his economic program.
  • Argentina's inflation drastically overshot targets last year, closing at about 25 percent. The results raise questions about the pro-business administration's ability to tame the country's perennial scourge, reports the Wall Street Journal. And the government announced yesterday it will delay a planned labor reform bill until March, reports Reuters. The government had planned to call extraordinary sessions of Congress to approve the plan, which aims to lower costs for employers and formalize the situation of unregistered workers. A pension reform passed in December triggered violent protests.
  • A bridge under construction in Colombia collapsed, killing 10 workers, reports the New York Times.
  • Across the region this year, political corruption and uncertainty will fuel organized crime, writes Jeremy McDermott in InSight Crime. "Tackling organized crime requires stable governments with purpose, strategy, strong security forces, healthy democracy and transparency, along with international cooperation. These currently seem in short supply around the region."


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