Monday, May 20, 2013

Fury of Opus Dei in Latin America

Some of the word choices in this article seem a bit odd to me, but that might be due to problems of translation. I don't necessarily agree with all the opinions expressed here, aside from criticism of Opus Dei. FYI, some details that follow may be upsetting for sensitive readers.

via Pravda:

Lawyer Ives Gandra Martins da Silva, the principal exponent of the fascist sect Opus Dei in Brazil, is concerned about the advancement of the left in Latin America. In an angry article in the column Trends / Debates of Folha de Sao Paulo, he distilled hatred and prejudice against Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, Fidel Castro and Lula... Besides lying about the reality of human rights in Cuba, he cannot hide his sympathy for the dictatorial regime of Chile, which has always had the active support of Opus Dei....The right-wing ideas and prejudices of Opus Dei are already known, but it is good not to underestimate the influence of this world sect - which enjoys space in the middle class media and has a strong presence in the state apparatus. Its interest in Latin America is not new and always hovers threateningly. Since its arrival to the continent, 50 years ago, Opus Dei cunningly plans its rise to power. The project only gained momentum with a wave of military coups in the region in the 60s. Its followers presided in several nations or advised numerous dictators. In the 90s, with the neo liberal avalanche, the faithful technocrats of this sect once again enjoy a certain prestige.

"Catechism" in Latin America

In the 50s, the sect seduced its first believers among the old oligarchies that sought to differentiate from indigenous peoples and preached religious fundamentalism. But Opus Dei only acquired greater strength with the wave of attacks from the 60s. Until then, its action was still dispersed. According to an excellent article by Marina Amaral in the magazine Dear Friends, "in 1970, Josemaría Escriva [founder of the sect in Spain] traveled to Mexico to start giving 'travel catechisms' of the Americas that lasted until the eve of his death in Rome in 1975."

In 1974, he visited South America, then dominated by dictatorships. "The progressive clergy tried to use the weight of the church to denounce torture and killings and to fight for the restoration of democracy. In his speeches, he once replied to a soldier that asked to follow the path of 'spiritual sanctification' of the Opus Dei: 'The soldier already has done half of the spiritual path." In this dark period, the sect supported the attacks and has participated in various dictatorial governments, according Emílio Corbière, author of the book "Opus Dei: Catholic totalitarianism.”

In Chile, the fascist sect of dictator Augusto Pinochet was what Augusto Franco was in Spain. The main ideologist of this bloodthirsty regime, Jaime Guzmá, was an active member of the sect, as well as hundreds of civilian and military boards. It also supported the strikes and participated in the authoritarian regimes in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. According Corbière, it funded the regime of Nicaraguan dictator Anastácio Somoza until his defeat by the Sandinistas. In the decade of the 90s, it still gave "active assistance" to the terrorist and corrupt dictatorship of Alberto Fujimori, Peru.

Another "prosperous" phase occurs with the neo liberal offensive in the 90s. Boasting the sympathy of the pope and of autonomy facing the local churches, it benefited from the invasion of Spanish multinationals, the result of state-owned privatization. Many of them are influenced by cash from Opus Dei. According Henrique Magalhães, in article in the magazine The New Democracy, "Argentina handed their state telephone, oil, aviation and energy to Telefonica, Repsol, Endesa and Iberia. Iberia had already swallowed the LAN [aviation], of Chile, where the generation of energy was already controlled by Endesa. The Spanish banks also came to the continent in this process.”

"The Opus Dei is for the neo liberal model what the Dominicans and the Franciscans were to the cross and the Jesuits for the Lutheran Reform," compares José Steinsleger, columnist for the Mexican newspaper La Jornada. In the 90s, the sect also enlisted several bishops and cardinals in the region. The most famous was Juan Cipriani, of Peru, intimate friend of the dictator Alberto Fujimori. In 1997, during the invasion of the Japanese embassy by militants of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, the bishop earned the position of mediator and used a listening device in a crucifix, which enabled the police to invade the house and kill all its occupants.

In Brazil, the Opus Dei entrenched its root in 1957, in the city of Marília, inside Paulista, with the establishment of two centers. In 1961, given the importance of the branch, the sect visited the Spanish sect Xavier Ayala, the second in the hierarchy. "Doctor Xavier, as he liked to be called, although a priest, stepped foot on Brazilian soil with the mission of strengthening the conservative wing of the church. On the eve of the Second Vatican Council, the progressive clergy in Latin America argued for the revolutionary return to the origins of Christianity and the 'option for the poor', fundamentals of Liberation Theology," explains Marina Amaral.

The tentacles in Brazil

Still, according to the report, "the few, Opus Dei have been finding their allies on the university’s right. Among the first were two young promising youths: Ives Gandra and Carlos Alberto Di Franco, the first one sympathetic to monarchism and a defeated candidate for representative; the second, a secondary school student of the College Rio Branco, the Rotarians of Brazil. Ives began to attend the meetings of Opus Dei in 1963, Di Franco 'whistled' (asked to enter) in 1965. Today, the organization says it has in the country a little over three thousand members and about forty centers, where approximately six hundred sects live."

Growth in dictatorship

During the dictatorship, the sect also focused its action in the legal environment, which yields fruit until today. The retired promoter and ex-deputy Mr. Hélio Bicudo reveals two times being harassed by judges loyal to the organization. The exponent at this stage was José Rodrigues Geraldo Alckmin, appointed minister of the STF by dictator Garrastazu Medici in 1972, and uncle of the Tucanos (PSDB) candidate to the presidency in 2006. Until the 70's, however, the power of Opus Dei was embryonic. It had boards in important positions, but without coordinated action. Moreover, it was divided with the Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) the sympathies of Catholics of the extreme right-wing.

Its growth depended on the blessing of generals and links with powerful companies. Ives Gandra and Di Franco turned their "ambassadors", linking themselves with the owners of the media, right-wing politicians, bishops and entrepreneurs. College Catamarã (SP), Casa do Moinho (Cotia) and Publisher Quadrant - is from this phase of the construction of the structure of facade. It also created an NGO to raise funds: OSUC (Works Social, and Cultural University). It receives donations until today from Itaú, Bradesco, GM and Citigroup. Faced with this denunciation, Lizandro Carmona, OSUC, begged the journalist Marina Amaral: "For the love of God, do not go write that companies such as Itaú donate money to Opus Dei."

Recent Offensives in the region

In the recent phase, the Opus Dei set bold plans to win more political power in the region. In April 2002, it participated actively in the failed coup against President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. One of its faithful, José Rodrigues Iturbe, became Minister of Foreign Affairs in the government of the elusive con man. The embassy of Spain, at the time governed by the Franco Popular Party (PP) of Jose Maria Aznar - whose wife is the Opus Dei - gave Guarita (Watchtower) to their faithful. Another con man linked to the sect, Gustavo Cisneiros, is the largest communications businessman in the country.

In December 2006, the sect witnessed the defeat of its candidate, Joaquim Laví, former adviser to the dictator Augusto Pinochet, for the presidency of Chile. Back in May 2006, it collected a new defeat with the candidacy of Lourdes Flores, nominee of the National Unity Party. In compensation, it celebrated the victory of narco terrorist Álvaro Uribe in Colombia, who dispersed millions of dollars from the government of George Bush. In Mexico, another known faithful of Opus Dei, Felipe Calderon, a former executive of Coca-Cola, won one of the most fraudulent elections in history of this country.

Its most daring move, though, was the attempt to elect a follower in Brazil. According to Henrique Magellan, "the hope of Opus Dei turned to Geraldo Alckmin, that today is one of its most prominent political structures. The Organization tried to make him president to form an axis with thegeopolitical leaders of Colombia and Mexico. " The media and the Tucanos (PSDB) members have even tried to cover up that shadowy connection. In a piece in the Folha de Sao Paulo, Alckmin pledged: "I am not one of the Opus Dei, who is in respect, but I do not know." He lied to hide his close relations with the fascist sect - from the time of childhood, in the meeting with his father and uncle-Minister of the dictatorship of the STF, to the illegal "talks of Morumbi." But the nation is not deceived. This explains the recent elitist moanings of Ives Gandra, high head of Opus Dei.

The above article does a great job of summarizing Opus Dei's connections to Latin American military dictatorships, but it doesn't get into some of the social policies the sect is actively promoting. For example, Opus Dei is known to have ties to Priests for Life, an anti-abortion organization which denies the medical reality that continuing a pregnancy can sometimes endanger the life of the mother. To get an idea of what a society governed by these principles would look like, consider the recent case in Brazil, where the mother of a 9-year-old, pregnant rape and incest victim was excommunicated by the Catholic church after arranging for her daughter to get an abortion. The doctors involved in the decision, who were also excommunicated, had warned her that her daughter was risking her life by continuing the pregnancy. Most reasonable people would let it go at that. The Vatican, however, insisted that, even though the child did not have the skeletal structure necessary for childbirth, she could still receive a Caesarian section.

This perspective demonstrates blatant and willful ignorance of the medical risks of pregnancy faced by young mothers. One of these risks includes preeclampsia, a condition of high blood pressure that can result in swelling of the face and hands, as well as permanent organ damage. Preeclampsia can also be a life-threatening condition. "Pro-life" organizers will argue that a few nine-year-old incest victims being forced to carry a rape baby to term despite their potential loss of life is a small price to pay for all the lives saved due to stringent anti-choice legislation. Let's examine that line of thinking more closely.

via The New York Times:

For proof that criminalizing abortion doesn't reduce abortion rates and only endangers the lives of women, consider Latin America. In most of the region, abortions are a crime, but the abortion rate is far higher than in Western Europe or the United States. Colombia - where abortion is illegal even if a woman's life is in danger - averages more than one abortion per woman over all of her fertile years. In Peru, the average is nearly two abortions per woman over the course of her reproductive years. In a region where there is little sex education and social taboos keep unmarried women from seeking contraception, criminalizing abortion has not made it rare, only dangerous. Rich women can go to private doctors. The rest rely on quacks or amateurs or do it themselves. Up to 5,000 women die each year from abortions in Latin America, and hundreds of thousands more are hospitalized.

Abortion is legal on demand in the region only in Cuba, and a few other countries permit it for extreme circumstances, mostly when the mother's life is at risk, the fetus will not live or the pregnancy is the result of rape. Even when pregnancies do qualify for legal abortions, women are often denied them because anti-abortion local medical officials and priests intervene, the requirements are unnecessarily stringent, or women do not want to incur the public shame of reporting rape.

But Latin Americans are beginning to look at abortion as an issue of maternal mortality, not just maternal morality. Where they have been conducted, polls show that Latin Americans support the right to abortion under some circumstances. Decriminalization, at least in part, is being seriously discussed in Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay and Argentina, and perhaps will be on the agenda after the presidential election in July in Mexico....Latin American women, who are increasing their participation in the work force and in politics, have also become more vocal. Their voice would be much louder were it not for the Bush administration's global gag rule, which bans any family planning group that gets American money from speaking about abortions, or even criticizing unsafe illegal abortions. This has silenced some respected and influential groups, such as Profamilia in Colombia. Anti-abortion lawmakers in Washington can look at Latin America as a place where the global gag rule has worked exactly as they had hoped. All Americans can look at Latin America to see unnecessary deaths and injuries from unsafe abortions.