Papal Imbroglio

Argentina Beats Brazil in
the Vatican World Cup Final

In the end, it was as predictable as always: Jorge Mario Bergoglio beat Brazilian Odilo Scherer, who shares the same background of Latin America’s bloody military dictatorships of the 1960s and 70s, and became the first non-European pope. No African came close.
The church quickly picked the cardinal with the slightly better conservative credentials, as it was well aware that it could not afford any uncertainty about its choice to fester. Thus Francis I will rule at least until the next scandal calls for another early retirement.
Immediately, along with all the sponsored joy in Roma and throughout the world, those who survived Argentina’s cruel Dirty War, waged by the successive military juntas against their political opponents, have protested the choice, mentioning Bergoglio’s possible role during those dark times.
And at least one well-documented instance has been invoked: the kidnapping of Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics, two Jesuit priests, in May of 1976, by paramilitary forces of the regime. They reappeared five months later, drugged and seminude, in the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
According to Horacio Verbitsky, a journalist who published an account of the episode in his ‘The Silence,’ Yorio accused Bergoglio, then a Society of Jesus official, in Argentina, of having refused to properly protect the priests, who were persecuted by the Junta for their work among the poor living in slum communities.
The generals, who ruled Argentina with an iron fist during the period, neither acknowledged their imprisonment, nor the reasons for it, naturally. Yorio passed away in 2000, and the case would be destined to become a footnote, if Bergoglio hadn’t now risen to the top position of the Catholic church. Then again, as pope, it’s even more unlikely that he’d have to defend his actions.
A SCHOOL OF INTOLERANCE
He offered his version of the events to his biographer, Sergio Rubin, portraying himself not as the facilitator, but as the liberator of the two priests from their harrowing experience. He told Rubin that he personally interceded on their behalf with the dictator of du jour, the infamous Jorge Villela, who then, completely out of character, granted the priests mercy.
But Bergoglio, as Francis I, may not need to deny the other, perhaps more relevant, charge against him: that of being a homophobic, who’s Continue reading

South American Way

On Neruda, Garcia Marquez
& Argentina’s Stolen Children

The world remembers two Latin American writers who both received the Nobel of Literature, Chile’s Pablo Neruda, who would have been 108 yesterday, and Colombia’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whose mental health is reportedly deteriorating. Both were active in the struggle against the wave of military dictatorships that took over the continent for over 20 years, starting in the 1960s.
While there are doubts about Neruda’s cause of death, there’s much sadness about Garcia Marquez’s condition. But the week also had another sight that things are no longer as bleak as they once were: members of the junta that ruled Argentina during the time were convicted of having stolen children of many members of the opposition, who they also stand accused having killed.
It was a dark time for South America, as one by one, almost all governments in the region fell under the iron-fisted control of its military. A whole generation of political leaders, who opposed the status quo, were killed or ‘disappeared,’ and it’s been taking a long time for all the facts about the period to come to light.
Both Neruda and Garcia Marquez became well known all over the world, their work suffused by what was going on around them. They were natural symbols of the resistance in their countries, either by Continue reading