Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 187 | Febrero 1997


Latin America

For Life and Against Neoliberalism

The Jesuits of Latin America, meeting in Mexico at the end of 1996, drew up a letter and a working document in which they denounced the neoliberal ideology and economy with lucidity and conviction. And, with passion and compassion, they ratified their proposal for a society in which everyone fits. envío offers a translation of both the letter and fundamental sections of the document below.

Provincials of the Society of Jesus in Latin America and the Caribbean

Dear Friends:

We Provincial Superiors of the Society of Jesus in Latin America and the Caribbean, following the call of General Congregation 34 to deepen our faith-justice mission, want to share some reflections on the so-called neoliberalism in our countries with all of those who are participating in this apostolic mission of the Society of Jesus throughout the continent and all who are concerned about and committed to the destiny of our people, especially the poorest.

We refuse to calmly accept that the economic measures applied in recent years in all Latin American countries and the Caribbean are the only possible way to orient the economy, and that the impoverishment of millions of Latin Americans is the inevitable cost of future growth. Behind these economic measures lies a strategic policy, an underlying concept of the human being and culture that must be discerned from the perspective of the models of society we aspire to and work for, at the side of so many men and women moved by the hope of life and of leaving future generations a more just and human society.

The considerations presented do not pretend to be a scientific analysis of a complex issue that requires research from the point of view of many disciplines. They are only reflections that we find pertinent on the consequences and criteria of neoliberalism; and characteristics of the society that we desire. Our primary concern in sharing these reflections is religious and ethical. The political and economic behavior we refer to reflects in the public terrain the limits and countervalues of a culture based on a concept of the individual and of human society that is far from the Christian ideal.

The Society We are Part of

On the threshold of the 21st century, communications link us closely together, technology gives us new possibilities of knowledge and creativity, and the market penetrates all social spaces. In contrast to the past decade, the economy of the majority of our countries has once again begun to grow.

This material boom, which could create hope for all, actually leaves multitudes in poverty, with no chance of participating in the construction of a common destiny. It threatens cultural identity and destroys natural resources. We calculate that at least 180 million people live in poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean and 80 million live in extreme poverty.

The economic dynamics that produce these perverse effects tend to transform into ideologies and to make certain concepts absolute: the market, for example, goes from being a useful and even necessary instrument to increase and improve supply and reduce prices to being the means, the method and the end governing relations between human beings.

To achieve this, measures known as neoliberal have been generalized throughout the continent. These measures:
put economic growth, rather than the full harmony of all men and women with creation, as the economy's raison d'etre;
restrict state intervention to the point of taking away any state responsibility for the minimum goods that every citizen deserves as a human being;
eliminate general programs that create opportunities for all, replacing them with occasional support to focal groups; privatize businesses according to the argument that the state is always a bad administrator;
open the borders to merchandise, capital and financial flow without restriction, leaving the smallest and weakest producers without sufficient protection; remain silent about the foreign debt problem, the payment of which necessitates drastic cuts in social spending;
subordinate the complexity of public finance to macroeconomic variables: a balanced fiscal budget, reduced inflation and stable balance of payments, as if the common good follows from that and does not generate new problems for the population that must be attended to simultaneously;
insist that the adjustments will produce growth that, once voluminous, will raise income levels and resolve the situation of the less favored;
motivate private investment by eliminating the obstacles that protective labor legislation could impose.
exonerate powerful groups from paying taxes and from environmental obligations, protecting them so as to accelerate the industrialization process, thereby provoking an even greater concentration of wealth and economic power;
put political activity at the service of this economic policy, leading to the paradox of eliminating all barriers to the free market while at the same time placing social and political controls--for example on the free contracting of labor--to guarantee the hegemony of the free market.

We must recognize that these adjustment measures have also had positive results. It is enough to mention the contribution of market mechanisms to increasing the supply of better-quality goods at lower prices; the drop in inflation all over the continent; the removal from government of tasks that do not pertain to them so they can dedicate themselves, if they choose, to the common good; the general consciousness of fiscal austerity that uses public resources better; and the advance in trade relations among our nations.

But these elements hardly compensate for the immense imbalances and perturbations neoliberalism causes through the concentration of income, wealth and land ownership; the multiplication of the unemployed urban masses or those surviving in unstable and unproductive jobs; the bankruptcy of thousands of small and medium businesses; the destruction and forced displacement of indigenous and peasant populations; the expansion of drug trafficking based in rural sectors whose traditional products can no longer compete; the disappearance of food security; an increase in criminality often triggered by hunger; the destabilization of national economies by the free flow of international speculation; maladjustments in local communities by multinational companies that do not take the residents into account.

As a consequence, together with moderate economic growth, social unrest expressed in citizen protests and strikes is increasing in almost all of our countries. Armed struggle, which resolves nothing, is emerging again in some areas. There is increased rejection of the general economic orientation that, far from improving the common good, deepens the traditional causes of popular discontent: inequality, poverty and corruption.

The Concept of the Human Being

Behind the economic rationality that calls itself neoliberal is a concept of the human being that reduces the greatness of men and women to their ability to generate monetary income. It exacerbates individualism and the desire to earn and possess, and easily moves to an attack on the integrity of creation. In many cases it unleashes greed, corruption and violence. And, when it is generalized among social groups, it radically destroys the community.

Thus is imposed an order of values that stresses the individual liberty to seek the consumption of satisfactions and pleasures; that legitimizes, among other things, drugs and eroticism without restrictions. A freedom that rejects any state interference in private initiative, opposes social planning, rejects the virtue of solidarity and accepts only the laws of the market.

Through the economic globalization process, this way of understanding men and women penetrates our countries with symbolic content that is very seductive. Thanks to the domination of the mass media, it breaks the roots of local cultural identities that do not have the power to communicate their message.

Our society's leaders, linked into these globalizing movements and indiscriminately accepting the market forces, commonly live as foreigners in their own countries. Without dialoging with the people, they consider the people an obstacle and danger to their own interests rather than brothers, friends or partners.

In a more general way, this concept considers it normal for millions of men and women to be born and die in abject poverty all over the continent, unable to generate the income to buy a more human quality of life. The governments and societies are thus not scandalized by the hunger and uncertainty of the multitudes who are made desperate and perplexed by the excesses of those who use the resources of society and nature without thinking about others.

The Society We Want

Thank God, there are transformation initiatives that insinuate the rise of a new world from diverse cultural, ethnic, generational, gender and social sectors.

Animated by these efforts, we want to help build a reality closer to the Gospel's kingdom of justice, solidarity and fraternity, where life with dignity is possible for all men and women.

A society where every person has access to the goods and services that he or she deserves for having been called to share this common walk to God. We are not demanding a welfare society, one of unlimited material satisfactions, but a just society, where no one is excluded from work or from access to fundamental goods for personal development such as education, nutrition, health, housing and security.

We want a society where we can all live as a family and look to the future with hope, sharing nature and leaving its marvels for future generations to enjoy.

A society attentive to the cultural traditions that gave identity to indigenous peoples, to those who came from other places, to African-Americans and to mixed peoples.

A society aware of the weak, the marginalized, those who have suffered the impact of socioeconomic processes that do not put human beings first. A democratic society, built with participation, where political activity is the option of those who want to dedicate themselves to the service of everyone's general interests.

We are aware that achieving this kind of society has a high price because it demands changes in attitude, habits and values. We are challenged to make the positive elements of modernity our own, such as work, organization, efficiency, without which we could not build that society of which we dream.

Finally, we want to contribute to building a Latin American community among our people.

The Tasks Before Us

We have before us an enormous task to be carried out in different fields:
• To undertake an intellectual effort of great importance in the social sciences, theology and philosophy to study neoliberalism, working alongside many others in our universities and our study, research and promotion centers to explain its deepest rationality, and the effects it has on human beings and nature.
• To discern and weigh the lines of action that emerge from this analysis, choosing pertinent options.

This knowledge and these decisions should lead us to:
Accompany the path of the victims, from communities of solidarity, protecting the rights of the excluded and undertaking with them, in dialogue with decision-making sectors, to build the most inclusive society possible.
• Strengthen our people's cultural and spiritual traditions so that they can situate themselves in the space of globalized relations, from their own identity, without diminishing their symbolic richness and community spirit.
• Incorporate into the educational work that we and many others do the kinds of values necessary to form people able to preserve the primacy of human beings in the world we all share.
• Give students the necessary preparation to understand and work to transform that reality.
• Resist particularly the consumer society and its ideology of happiness based on unlimited buying of material satisfactions.
• Communicate through every means the results of the analysis of neoliberalism, the values that should be preserved and promoted and possible alternatives.
• Propose viable solutions in spaces where global and macroeconomic decisions are made.

We will work to strengthen the value of gratuity, in a world where everything is bought for a price; to stimulate the sense of a sober life and simple beauty; to favor the interior silence and spiritual quest and invigorate the responsible freedom that decidedly incorporates solidarity from the spirituality of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, committed to the transformation of the human heart.

To make our pledge believable, to demonstrate our solidarity with the excluded of the continent and to show our distance from consumerism, we will procure not only personal austerity, but also that our works and institutions avoid all type of ostentation, using means coherent with our poverty. Their investment and consumption policies will not support businesses that notoriously infringe on human rights and damage the ecology. In this way we want to reaffirm the radical option of faith that led us to respond to God's call to follow Jesus in poverty, to be more effective and free in the search for justice.

We will seek with many others a national and Latin American community of solidarity, where science, technology and the markets are at the service of all members of our peoples. Where the commitment to the poor makes evident that working for the plenitude of all men and women, without exclusion, is our contribution, modest and serious, to the greater glory of God in history and in creation.

We hope that these reflections animate the efforts to improve our service to the Latin American people. We ask our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of Latin America, to bless our people and to intercede so that we may obtain abundant grace to carry out our mission.

Fernand Azevedo (Northern Brazil) Carlos Cardó (Peru), José Adán Cuadra (Central America), Benjamín González Buelta (Dominican Republic), Juan Díaz Martínez (Chile), Mariano García Díaz (Paraguay), Ignacio García-Mata (Argentina), José Adolfo González (Colombia), Mario López Barrio (Mexico), Jorge Machín (Cuba), Allan Mendoza (Ecuador), Emilio M. Moreira (Bahía), Fernando Picó (Puerto Rico), Armando Raffo (Uruguay), Marcos Recolons (Bolivia), Joao Claudio Rhoden (Southern Brazil), Francisco Ivern Simó (Central Brazil), Arturo Sosa A. (Venezuela). Mexico City, November 14, 1996


A Conceptual Approximation of Neoliberalism

(...) Neoliberalism, as it is understood in Latin America, is a radical concept of capitalism that tends to absolutize the market, converting it into the means, method and end of all intelligent and rational human behavior. According to this concept, people's lives, the behavior of societies and government policies are subordinated to the market. This absolute market accepts no type of regulation. It is free, with no financial, labor, technological or administrative restrictions.

This way of thinking and acting tends to convert the economic theory of some of the most brilliant economists of modern capitalism, those who created neoclassical thinking, into an ideological totality. Those thinkers did not try to reduce human and societal behavior to the elements that they put forward to explain part of the relations and of the complex life of people and communities.

Therefore, neoliberalism is not the same as the economy that recognizes the importance of the market for all goods and services without absolutizing it, nor is it equal to liberal democracy. Opposing neoliberalism does not mean being against the efficient use of resources that society has at its disposal; it does not mean delimiting individual freedom; it does not mean supporting state socialism.

Opposing neoliberalism means stating that there are no absolute institutions to explain or conduct human history; that men and women cannot be reduced to the market, the state or any other power or institution that wants to impose itself as a totalizing element. It means protecting human freedom, affirming that God is absolute and that his commandment is the love that is socially expressed in justice and solidarity. And it means renouncing totalitarian ideologies, because when they have been imposed, the result has been injustice, exclusion and violence.

The Concept of Human Being Underlying Neoliberalism

General Congregation 34 invites us to take action given the fact that "world structural injustice has its roots in the system of values of a modern culture that is having world impact." This impact comes to our countries through technology and international financial systems.

This cultural impact, when radicalized by neoliberalism, tends to value the human being only through his or her capacity to generate income and be successful in the market. With this reductionist context it penetrates our countries' leaders, infiltrates the middle class and reaches the farthest corners of popular, indigenous and peasant communities, destroying solidarity and instigating violence.

We find ourselves before a profound and overarching system of values; profound because it touches the human heart and overarching because it imposes its convincing messages, infiltrating Latin America's social and institutional life.
Absolutizing the market is even set out with religious connotations. By saying that the market "is correct and just" converts it morally into a legitimizer of questionable activities. We allow the sense of life and human realization to be defined from the market.
This system of values is presented in ambiguous symbols that are highly seductive, and, thanks to its domination of the mass media, it easily affects local traditions, unprepared to establish a dialogue that could enrich all sides and preserve the identity and freedom of the deep human traditions with no power in the markets to communicate their messages.

We are not unaware of the positive elements of international mobilization carried out by technological transformations that have allowed a drop in illnesses, facilitate communication, increase time available for leisure and the interior life, and make home life more comfortable. But we also see the aspects of these processes that diminish men and women, particularly in the context of neoliberal radicalization, because--wanting to or not--they initiate the desire to possess and consume, exacerbate individualism and competition, forget about community and destroy the integrity of creation....

Problems of Structural Poverty Exacerbated by Neoliberalism

Neoliberalism emerges from within modern culture and, without necessarily meaning to, produces structural effects that generate poverty and that have been acting since long before the neoliberal rise in the 1980s. These factors are, among others, inequity or injustice in income distribution and wealth, the precarious nature of social capital and the inequality or exclusion in exchange relations.

The Bad Distribution of Wealth and Income. Economic inequity and social inequality prevent almost half of Latin Americans and Caribbeans from reaching the material conditions necessary to live with dignity and to effectively exercise their rights.

By opposing state redistributive intervention, neoliberalism today perpetuates and increases traditional socioeconomic inequality. It introduces the criterion that only the market possesses the virtue of efficiently assigning income levels to the diverse social actors. Social justice efforts through a progressive tax structure and public spending that privilege the least privileged are abandoned, as are attempts to democratize property ownership or promote integral agrarian reform.

The Precariousness of Social Capital. Social capital is understood as the accumulated human, natural, infrastructural and institutional wealth of a society. Social capital is, therefore, the culture, knowledge, education, natural resources, communications and roads that a nation offers its inhabitants. This capital is slowly configured with those private and state investments that raise the potential and the creativity of all men and women. Social capital is founded above all on the participation of civil society and the state in expanding opportunities.

A look at the social capital in our countries shows that educational offerings are scarce and of low quality for almost half of Latin America and the Caribbean. Investment in science and technology is marginal in the majority of national budgets. Health conditions are bad. There is a huge vacuum in transport infrastructure for the majority of poor urban and rural homes. The destruction of natural resources is advancing and, with the implementation of administrative decentralization processes in all countries, the great fragility of local institutions is clear, especially in poor communities.

It could be said that the poor in Latin America have always lived with this vacuum of social capital, but it has now been aggravated by neoliberal policies, by the state's withdrawal in favor of private initiative, by public spending cuts, and by the abandonment of support for natural and cultural heritages and for peoples' organizations.

Markets Without Social Control. As an historical expression of human beings' need to support each other in order to open current and future possibilities, the market is neither good nor bad, neither capitalist nor socialist. It is proposed for all as a relationship that must be controlled, in freedom, solidarity and skill, to achieve an acceptable existence for all. As in all types of relations, the market can be used perversely to destroy people and communities. but the fact that it can be perverted in this way should not allow us to forget the heritage of knowledge and culture that humanity throughout history has built around the market. The challenge is not to destroy the exchange relationship, but to put it at the service of the fulfillment of human beings in harmony with creation; to place it within a framework of equality of basic opportunities for all people and free them from the forces of domination and exploitation that have distorted the general Western mode of production.

With the entry of neoliberalism, the inequalities produced in a society where the market is not under the control of civil society and the state have been accentuated. In effect, by neglecting the production of social capital, the market remains at the service of the most educated, those who possess infrastructure and put the institutions at their service, and those who concentrate information. With the deregulation of labor and finances, the market easily transfers the value produced to national and international nuclei of accumulation.

In many cases, people have not been incorporated into the vigorous production of added value. And in processes like the maquila (plants that assemble imported inputs for re-export) or the informal economy, people have not been allowed to participate in the wealth generated. There has been no process of incorporating the poor, the popular sectors and middle class in the economic relations in an increasing fashion, with the ability to retain the value added by themselves and climb out of poverty.

The labor market is a central element in the integration of the world economy. In current neoliberal competition investments seek cheap labor. Their production costs thereby drop to the detriment of both Latin American workers, who are poorly paid, and workers from the North, due to the unemployment created because factories move to the South. Furthermore, workers from poor countries are systematically denied access to wealthier countries.

In an unrestricted financial market, so-called "swallow capital" flits from place to place with no other goal than to take advantage of banking and monetary systems; it can completely destabilize any country, producing devastating effects even on the strongest economies of Latin America.

The effects of the market without social control have been particularly grave for rural populations, who strongly felt the blow of the market openings that pushed millions of peasants out of production. There the lack of social capital is much more critical.

Neoliberalism and the General Social Crisis

It is very important to reflect on the relationship between neoliberalism and the general crisis of our societies, because we perceive that, alongside the persistence of poverty and growth of inequalities, old problems with pre-modern and modern roots take on new strength in our societies. We are dangerously propelled by a culture based on the ambition to possess, accumulate and consume, which substitutes personal fulfillment in participatory communities with individual success in markets.

A general rending of society can be perceived throughout the continent; it has multiple causes and evidences itself in family instability, multiple and growing forms of violence, discrimination against women, environmental destruction, manipulation of individuals by the media, harassment of the peasantry and indigenous communities, the growth of inhospitable cities, corruption among leaders, privatization of the state to groups with economic power, the loss of governability by the state apparatus, the penetration of alienating consumption like drugs and pornography, and the complexity of the secularization processes and of spiritual searches lacking community commitment and the practice of solidarity.

Neoliberalism exacerbates this crisis by eliminating the common good as a central objective of politics and the economy. The common good is replaced by the search for equilibrium of market forces. Contrary to the social thinking of the Church, which believes that there should be as much state as is required for the common good, neoliberalism coldly proposes that it is best to have less state, only what is required for macroeconomic functioning and the promoting of private enterprise.

Concern for the population's general quality of life now and in the future, which was expressed through earlier welfare states, disappears as a goal in this context. With the disappearance of the good of all as a goal, the sense of the common or public home disappears.

There is thus no need to care for the family as the nucleus and cell of a common good that no longer matters. Women become simply a cheaper source of labor, nature a source of rapid enrichment for present generations, and the peasant an inefficient citizen who must emigrate.

In this horizon, into which what is public tends to disappear, political parties as a way of building society and nation lose their reason for being. Political and administrative competition is reduced to demonstrating that the candidate or the president is the one most capable of creating the necessary conditions for the free and open play of markets. All are subordinated to the programs of adjustment and opening, imposed by international market necessities.

It is not surprising that in this context, where community is irrelevant and the common good useless, violence would grow, drug production and consumption would skyrocket, and the elements most contrary to human fulfillment contained in today's culture would be reinforced, casting aside the most valuable contributions of modernity and post-modernity.

Overcoming Social Exclusion, At Whatever the Cost

Given this reality, which goes against the work of the Creator, a demand of faith calls us, so that God may be God among us, to resist the dynamics that are destroying our brothers and sisters and to work with many others for a change, to contribute to the building of a society closer to the kingdom of solidarity and fraternity in the Gospel.

The cost we have to pay in this determination doesn't matter. We have no alternative. It is our loyalty to Jesus Christ that is at stake. It is the foundation of the conditions for the possibility of fraternal living, for which the Jesuit martyrs gave their lives in diverse points throughout Latin America....

We face an immense pedagogical task. In a context where the common good is disappearing as a goal and everyone is seeking their own fortune in the market, social exclusion is deepening. Formal and informal educational efforts must be undertaken to transform the institutions, enterprises and projects that are exclusionary, the policies that exclude, and the men and women who are actors in this exclusion, many times without being aware of it. We must begin by examining ourselves, our preferences and the groups we frequent. We also may be part of the dynamic of exclusion. And the excluded also must change, because many times they are the counterpart of the national and international society we have created.

The challenge is to begin with those who have been left out and, from there, at the side of the poor and walking with them, to propose the most inclusive or including societies that are possible and viable for all. This task calls for a structural transformation of our societies, one which goes beyond resisting the disturbing elements of neoliberalism. At issue is not to include the excluded in a system that generates exclusion. Rather it is a slow and patient task to create a communal society that does not currently exist.

Overcoming the Culture of Poverty

This expression does not allude to the culture of the poor, with its values and ambiguities. It refers to a way that all of society behaves in the national and continental venue. A society whose leaders, whose social, political, educational and religious institutions, and whose grassroots sectors, have grown accustomed to living with poverty as something normal. Even though the means exist to overcome this situation, there is no interest in putting them in practice.

It can be said that this culture of poverty has existed for many decades in Latin America, but with the promotion of neoliberalism in all of our countries, this way of seeing and feeling things finds a perverse justification. In effect, the existence of millions of poor people in Latin America produces no scandal for neoliberalism. These people have nothing they can demand, because they have no market value. And the economy is not there to pull them out of poverty, but to produce more, sell more and earn more.

The Search for Viable Economic Alternatives

One of the most urgent responsibilities is to move from critical analysis to proposals. We must present viable alternatives for human and sustainable development oriented to the common good, that guarantee fulfillment for all of our current and future brothers and sisters in harmony with nature.

In very general terms these are some of the issues that should be studied:
The Goods that all Deserve. We should pay particular attention to getting the state and society to guarantee to all the goods they deserve for being God's children. Goods should be guaranteed as basic citizen rights, independent of whether families are or are not able to buy these indispensable elements in the markets. Such goods are health care, education, security, home and housing. These are really public goods. We do not seek a welfare society dedicated to satisfying the insatiable demands of consumer citizens. We want a just society, where every person has the essential ingredients to live in dignity.

Natural Resources. Sustainable development requires environmental security and equity between the men and women of today and of the future. It is indispensable to present alternatives so that the economy gives these resources a different treatment than the one imposed by neoliberalism, which does not incorporate long-term ecological and social costs and benefits. We have the enormous responsibility of finding new ways to guarantee the quality of life for all, within consumption and extraction patterns that are different from the countries of the North and the rich elite of our societies, who destroy the environment and appropriate the goods of the earth to the point that they, 20% of the earth's population, consume 80% of the earth's resources.

Gender Equity. In recent years, with the drop in salaried incomes and rise in unemployment, various family members have frequently been obliged to work in the informal economy. In these informal labor market conditions, middle class and grassroots women find themselves forced to work a triple day: contributing to the family income, doing the bulk of the domestic labor and raising the children. Women are also used as publicity objects and articles of commerce. In this context it is worth remembering the reflections of General Congregation 34, which speaks of "a systematic discrimination against women" and proposes that we contribute to this task (of gender equity), which "is at the center of all contemporary missions that claim to integrate faith and justice."
The Congregation's statement makes full sense in the Latin American situation: "There is a feminization of poverty, a feminine face to the oppression." It is indispensable to heed the call to align ourselves in solidarity with women. Listening particularly to women, explicitly teaching the essential equality of women and men, supporting liberation movements that oppose women's exploitation, and having them present in Society activities.

Rural Policy. The neoliberal opening has left devastation among peasants throughout the continent. Small and medium farmers represent the majority of agricultural producers in almost all our countries. Undertaking a different process demands a complex combination of measures that implies, among other things, the participation of peasants in modernizing productive structures; research on their particular systems; access to the new technologies and technical assistance; linkage to the national and international market, without forsaking self-consumption; caring for the typical conditions and necessities of diverse products and localities; agricultural credit; land tenure, distribution and deeding; deconcentration of the market, distribution and information channels; credit; roads; rural energy; and public health and education services. All of this within a framework of sustainable agriculture and food security.

Industrial Policy. In the neoliberal economic framework, the export industry is the motor force of development. Although this has grown, however, it does not propel the rest of the economy because it is not sufficiently linked to the other sectors and is highly import-dependent. Ways must be found to diversify manufacturing and agroindustrial production that support medium and small enterprise and not only large enterprise, that satisfy the population's basic needs, strengthen society's accumulated technology, and promote equity and sustainable growth.

Labor Policy. Existing economic dynamics tend to compete internationally by lowering labor costs and paying bad salaries. Strategies need to be fostered that lead to competitive insertion in markets based on people's skills and the expansion of their creativity, and change the concept of enterprise into a true community of labor. And there must be an outlook of overcoming unemployment and underemployment.

The Foreign Debt. The Pope invites us, in the spirit of the book of Leviticus, to make the 2000-year Jubilee a good time to think about "a notable reduction, if not a total condoning, of the international debt." We cannot lose sight of the fact that the foreign debt constitutes a serious limitation to the potential for equitable and sustainable development from Mexico to Chile. We cannot ignore this issue of international justice which affects the daily life of the popular majority and continues to concern the Church. Out of this grows the need to contribute well-founded proposals so that Latin American and Caribbean societies and governments can negotiate the pardon of an important portion of the debt, particularly the part caused by the abrupt rise in interest rates. And so that the part of the debt that cannot be condoned be examined to assure that its payment at least not jeopardize social spending. And it is indispensable to help formulate alternatives so that our people can confront this common problem together based on joint investigations and with a general understanding of the dimensions of the problem and its repercussions in the daily life of the poor.

Dialogue with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The challenge is to advance the dialogue and study of rigorous proposals that our Jesuit brothers throughout the continent have put forward through the initiative taken by the Center of Concern in Washington.

With respect to the North American economy, we should help support a dialogue around the decisions that most affect Latin America: the financial system, institutions, and multinational businesses. The private financial sector should be studied with particular care in our universities and social centers. This sector is mobilizing billions of dollars that concentrate credit in rich countries and produce destabilizing effects in the main Latin American economies.

Overcoming Society's Crisis. The crisis of our societies has an historic origin and many causes, and is growing because of neoliberalism. For this reason, we cannot fail to touch on fundamental aspects of the common good when we try to present alternatives to the neoliberal political economy.

Constructing Civil Society. The Church, whose mission we share, does not exist for itself but for humanity. Affirming their Christian roots, and respecting the autonomy of earthly realities, our communities of solidarity should be put at the service of the collective citizenry in the construction of spaces where public issues can be discussed. This is becoming even more urgent as pressure mounts in our countries toward silence and the disappearance of the citizenry's responsibilities for solidarity and the common good.

Invigorating the Political Vocation. To overcome the crisis of governability and dignify public service, and to put economic policy and the markets under social control to protect the common good, we should contribute to the formation of men and women with a political vocation, so that they will work to build states that guarantee the dignity of all citizens and care for their poor.

Transforming the State. We should contribute to an interdisciplinary study that clarifies the state's role as an important agent in an alternative equitable and sustainable development model, with human beings at the center, one that presents alternatives to the neoliberal concept that asks the state to be reduced to a minimum. The successful examples of development today show effective and efficient state action to prioritize objectives and spending, restricting and distributing losses, with an important role for the state in strategic projects and in the adequate provision of goods that all deserve.

The Elaboration of a Public Ethic. Taking into account that neoliberalism subordinates moral behavior to the market and produces destructive effects in the community, we, as followers of the Lord Jesus who is our final moral law, should contribute to establishing a public or civil ethic, a task in which we are simple citizens with all others, believers and non-believers, who are responsible for establishing the moral values pertinent to a reality in profound change, values without which our societies cannot survive and guarantee everyone's fulfillment. Along with many others in this effort, we will be pedagogues of life, the search for truth, justice, human rights, the fight against corruption, peace and the protection of creation's integrity.

For us as Jesuits, this ethical task has a deeper dimension. It is to know, to seek apostolic strategies so that our dialogue about the policies of the economic system carries the sense of the gospel to the depths of cultural experience: where we find or reject God, build or destroy human identity and nature, where we open or close the door to the Kingdom. That is the place of deep discerning where we must put ourselves with lucidity, knowledge and liberty, and collaborate with others in building new social relations in transparency, justice and solidarity.

As a specific task, it is indispensable that, with an Ignatian attitude of searching for the greatest universal good, we finally touch the conscience of those leaders who make financial and economic decisions, so that their technical determinations have positive effects on the transformation of the culture of poverty and death into a culture of shared life.

A Latin American Perspective

While making these reflections it is important to look at all of Latin America and the Caribbean. This territory, with common cultural and spiritual roots, has been considered a mosaic of nations with distinct destinies. It is no longer possible to see things that way. It would be like going to a past that no longer exists.

We still do not know what this Latin American unity means. But the accelerated process leading toward it is vigorous and irreversible....

Such a vision must lead us to continental solidarity. A lucid solidarity that allows us to dialogue with our North American friends: to do studies and seek the common good, to seek alternatives to problems like those of multinational corporations that compete based on low salaries in our countries, hurting workers from both parts of the continent. We must unite, when poverty promotes Latino migration to the United States and Canada; when the North sells arms to our countries to intensify fratricidal violence and war becomes a reason for displacement to other borders; when money from US workers' pension funds are invested in volatile Latin American financial markets; when there is also a drop in social solidarity and poverty grows in the United States and Canada; when putting a stop to the expansion of cocaine and heroine is only possible by working to stop demand in the North and supply in the South simultaneously....


We want to seriously assume the promotion of justice that emerges from our faith and deepen it according to the changing needs of our peoples and cultures and to the peculiarities of our continent's historic moment. Men and women will always be threatened by greed for wealth, ambition for power and the insatiable search for sensory satisfactions. Today this threat is made concrete in neoliberalism, and tomorrow it will have other ideological expressions and there will be other idols. We have been called in the Church to contribute to the liberation of our brothers and sisters from human disorder and we will remain there, in this task at the service of all, placing ourselves at the side of our friends the poor because that is what our Lord Jesus did.

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