NICHOLAS G HAHN III

The pope’s Latin American blunders

Nicholas G. Hahn III
The Detroit News

When the cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires was elected pope in March 2013, many under the thumb of repressive regimes expected the new pontiff to be especially sympathetic to their plight.

But Pope Francis has thus far been more of a blessing for dictators than dissidents.

Take Berta Soler, for one. Soler is the leader of the Ladies in White, a Catholic opposition movement in Cuba made up of relatives of jailed human rights activists who attend Mass and silently take to the streets while wearing white. These women are routinely roughed up and detained by Raúl Castro’s goons.

Yet the Holy See worked to restore diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, without any concessions from Havana’s communists. When asked about Cuba’s spotty record, Francis demurred. “I would say that in many countries of the world, human rights are not respected,” he said during a July 2015 in-flight news conference.

Francis was on his way back to Rome after a visit to Bolivia where he received a crucifix in the form of a hammer and sickle from President Evo Morales. Pope Francis assured reporters the gift, a symbol of an ideology responsible for the murder of millions, “wasn’t an offense.” Earlier in Santa Cruz, at a meeting which gathered some of the world’s most ardent socialists, the pope denounced “corporations, loan agencies, certain ‘free trade’ treaties, and the imposition of measures of ‘austerity,’” but left out any condemnations of corruption in Morales’s thug-like administration.

Now comes the news that Francis had recently sent a “personal letter” to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro amid the country’s economic recession, triple-digit inflation rate and toilet paper shortage among other basic goods. The contents of the note to Maduro are unknown, but if the pope’s chummy relations with Castro and Morales are any indication, it probably didn’t say much for Venezuela’s persecuted. Francis could have instead let a January 2015 letter from Venezuelan bishops speak for itself.

The bishops warned that “Marxist socialism is an erroneous path,” one that “threatens freedom and the rights of persons and associations and has led to oppression and ruin in every country where it has been tried.” They exhorted Venezuela’s politicians to “set aside rigid and failed ideologies, as well as the desire to control everything.”

Those are words Venezuelans deserve from the pope.

nhahn@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @NGHahn3