Brazil world champion in poverty, Catholic Church says FWD

Tom Boland (
Wed, 12 Aug 1998 20:38:37 -0700 (PDT)
FWD  Cable News Network  8 August 1998


BRASILIA, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Brazil remains the "world champion in
social inequalities" and must scrap its pro-market economic policies,
representatives of Brazil's Catholic church said on Saturday.

Less than two months before general elections, members of the
Brazilian National Bishops Conference (CNBB) launched a blistering
attack on the state of South America's biggest nation, nearly 500
years after colonization began.

A letter compiled after debates involving more than 10,000
church-goers called for cuts in foreign debt repayments -- running at
about $5 billion a month -- and a total rethink of economic policy to
relieve poverty.

"The neo-liberal model implemented in Brazil, principally from 1990,
has reinforced the existing structural inequalities within Brazilian
society," said the letter.

"We live under the dominance of the so-called laws of the market, of
individualism, of competitiveness and consumerism," the document

It was distributed at the end of a five-day meeting of
representatives of the CNBB to discuss social issues.

Without referring to President Fernando Henrique Cardoso
specifically, the letter harshly criticised the economic policies
adopted by his government, including privatization and the lowering
of import tariffs.

Social democrat Cardoso is firm favourite to win reelection in
October, thanks mainly to his success in cutting Brazil's once
rampant inflation to an expected 1.5 percent this year.

He claims to have reduced the number of people living in poverty to
about 25 percent of Brazil's 160 million population, down from 35
percent in 1994 when he took office.

Cardoso aides say the only aspect of Brazilian society to have
worsened since he took over in 1994 is unemployment. The official
jobless rate is now at a record eight percent.

But the CNBB document saw the need for a totally new approach to the
country's problems.

"We need to build a new society based on value and policies capable
of distributing wealth, income, land and knowledge, creating the
opportunities for all Brazilians to live with justice, dignity and
happiness," the letter said.

It also denounced what it said was corruption, electoral fraud, the
dismantling of public health and education, and the manipulation of
news by the media.

"These are the debts that the dominant elites have imposed on our
people in 500 years of exploitation," it said, citing the plight of
millions of landless and homeless families and the country's
indigenous peoples who were being "exterminated."

Brazil celebrates the 500th anniversary of its colonisation by
Portuguese explorers in 2000. The Catholic Church has said that
landmark, combined with the arrival of a new millennium, should serve
as a reminder of the country's problems.


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