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ARGENTINA | 13-06-2024 09:09

Priests pressure Pettovello, government on social policies

Criticism from Church leaders picks up amid increased tensions over lack of food supplies at soup kitchens and community canteens.

The relationship between the Catholic Church and President Javier Milei government is growing tenser as food starts running out at soup kitchens and community canteens.

The opening up of Buenos Aires’ Metropolitan Cathedral on a cold night this week to offer dinner was a concrete message to the government with regards to social policies and its attempts to reduce welfare support for the impoverished.

Milei’s government, meanwhile, has frozen the distribution of thousands of tons of food aid for months pending an audit of soup kitchens. Last month, a court ordered perishable food to be released “immediately” and an emergency distribution drive was organised in response.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis – the Argentine pontiff who leads the Catholic Church – on Thursday received Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof in a gesture of Vatican diplomacy that was loaded with symbolism.

This came after footage began circulating online of faithful at a church in San Cristóbal chanting “La patria no se vende,” or “The homeland is not for sale.”

Father Carlos Saracini of the Santa Gema parish explained why the faithful chose to sign the slogan, underlining that “the country is bleeding.”

“At our Mass [at the church] in memory of [late human rights campaigner] Norita Cortiñas, we expressed that the homeland is not for our sale and that our country is bleeding. This is part of the memory of the Last Supper and today’s supper,” he said

The parish priest  questioned the social policies of President Milei and Human Capital Minister Sandra Pettovello without naming them directly.

His remarks, however, underline the resistance within the Church to Milei’s reforms.

“The Archbishop of Buenos Aires has made a gesture towards other priests from his own cathedral, couldn’t they do the same? And do they understand? It’s also a question of being creative, of saying the words which need to be said,” he explained.

According to reports in local media outlets, shantytown priests have declared a “holy war” against Pettovello and her management of food. 

Further comments are expected as poverty continues to rise.

Speaking during an interview with Radio Colonia AM 550, Saracini highlighted the importance of his community and work. Highlighting his narrative and opposition to the government, Father Saracini recalled the brutal era of the 1976-1983 military dictatorship and how Santa Cruz church became a refuge for the Madres de Plaza de Mayo human rights group.

“We have always remembered and we are among those who believe that it was not a war but state terrorism,” he affirmed, challenging the Milei government’s take on the dictatorship era.

Milei’s government has emphasised the importance of keeping Pettovello in her post, highlighting her contribution towards implementing measures destined to reduce the influence of vested interests in state administration. 

The minister is considered the “flagship”official in the struggle against “the deals,” according to senior government sources. Despite the rumours of her possible exit recently circulating, Pettovello will keep working in the so-called “struggle against the caste.”

 

‘Incident’ at minister’s home

Underlining their support for the minister, the Milei government this week denounced an attempted break-in at her home at a private gated community in Moreno.

“They cut through the barbed wire and tried to enter,” claimed Presidential Spokesman Manuel Adorni at a press conference.

“The minister understands that the objective was not to enter her flat nor rob anything” but responds to “an attempt to intimidate her from exposing the biggest corruption in recent decades,” he added.

The incident occurred last Monday and came to light when Pettovello’s neighbour reported hearing strange noises. 

Eduardo Feinmann, a journalist with the LN+ news channel, cast doubt over the allegation in a broadcast, suggesting that the incident had been blown out of proportion.

 

– TIMES/NA

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