ROME – When Pope Francis talks about “ideological colonization,” meaning aid to developing countries that comes with a price tag, some scratch their heads wondering what he means. During his home country’s debate over abortion on Thursday, a priest from the slums of his former archdiocese put one name on it: The International Monetary Fund.
“Abortion is synonymous with the IMF, whether the conservative world likes it or not, [because] it doesn’t mind the poor having fewer children or even none at all, and [whether] pseudo-progressives [like it or not], they’re raising the flags of a presumed freedom of women to dispose of their bodies, but know that this genocide is inspired and promoted by the IMF,” said Father José María “Pepe” Di Paola.
Di Paola is a point of reference among the “villero priests,” meaning, priests who live and serve in one of Argentina’s infamous slums, in his case, in Buenos Aires.
Argentina began debating abortion some two months ago, with a green light from conservative President Mauricio Macri, who, while insisting that he’s “in favor of life,” has already said he wouldn’t veto the law if it were to be passed by Congress.
The proposed bill would liberalize unrestricted abortion until week 14 of a pregnancy, and then until the end of the pregnancy under three circumstances: if it is a result of sexual abuse, if the baby presents “malformations” (including Down syndrome), and if the pregnancy represents a risk for the physical, psychological or social health of the mother. Under the last provision, critics believe something such as a break-up with one’s partner could be used to justify late-term abortion.
“It’s not an accident that, this year, abortion is becoming an issue in politics, in order to cozy up to that body which promotes it around the world: the IMF,” Di Paola said, in a clear reference to the fact that some two weeks ago the Macri government began negotiating with the IMF.
Macri announced that he’d allow the abortion debate to take place just a week before Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, was in Argentina. It was the first visit an IMF executive has made to the country in 15 years, and this is also the first time in 12 that a bill to liberalize abortion is being debated in the legislature.
According to Di Paola, the president’s decision to permit the debate on abortion was a “surprise” because during the presidential campaign it wasn’t among any promises he made. The same could be said, he added, about members of the country’s other political parties.
For this reason, he said, “no one gave you [the Chamber of Deputies] the agreement for such a decision that affects the most precious thing that every human has: life. Without life, neither you nor I would be here.”
In a heavily politicized speech, aimed perhaps at proving that defense of unborn life is not a religious matter but a human right, Di Paola also spoke of the contradiction of the members of the Chamber of Deputies who “are concerned and speaking out against the IMF, and, at the same time, are inclined to approve one of its biggest demands, abortion, to control who’s born and who’s not in the countries that have to comply to its norms.”
Di Paola called on politicians to defend the lives of Argentinians, “particularly the weakest and subjugated” by honoring the many women who were kidnapped and tortured during the country’s Dirty War and who, after refusing an abortion, “defended life even in the terrible conditions they lived in.”
The “villero priests” he said, have already denounced the “hypocrisy” of the bourgeoise class that proposes abortion allegedly to benefit the poorest, noting that this is not the first time that proposals are drafted “utilizing the poor.”
Di Paola also noted that Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defense of the United States, during his time as president of the World Bank suggested increasing loans to developing countries but imposing strong conditions, and one of them was liberalizing abortion.
McNamara was a firm promoter of population control in third world countries, allegedly because “rapid population growth slows down their potential development.”
In 1968 McNamara became the first president of the World Bank to visit Latin America, including Argentina, where he addressed the Inter-American Press Association. During his speech, he said that loans to the region would depend on a “realistic appraisal of the effect of population growth in those countries where that growth is clearly holding back progress, and for an earnest effort to cope with this most difficult and complex problem of our times.”
Addressing a Chamber of Deputies where most of those in favor of legalizing abortion are from left-leaning parties, Di Paola named Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa who, in 2013, threatened to resign if an abortion bill was passed, and Venezuela’s late Hugo Chavez, who was also anti-abortion.
“Abortion is synonymous to death on prescription,” Di Paola said, asking if legislators who are worried about social issues have already given up on looking for real solutions for poor women or abandoned children who are left at the mercy of organized crime.
Di Paola also dropped a big name in Argentina’s politics, Eva Duarte de Peron, saying that she, like Mother Teresa, “defended life even in the hardest of circumstances.”
Eva was the second wife of Juan Domingo Peron, who founded the Partido Justicialista. Today, many Argentinians who don’t know her history on the issue ironically use her image to promote the abortion bill, draped in the flags of the “Evita Youth.”
Back in the mid-1970s, when the Latin American left largely saw population control as a form of ideological manipulation, Peron tried to implement a plan to increase the country’s birth rates, quite literally mocking McNamara in an interview: “If he believes this is a problem for Argentina with 23 million inhabitants, how much more will it be for the U.S. [that has] 200 million? And why don’t they limit their birthrate?”
Towards the end of his seven-minute remarks, Di Paola spoke of the Latin American martyr Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who exhorted the military not to repress its people: “If we feel the repression, because it kills our youth and people who are already grown, it’s the same to take a life in the womb of a woman. That child is a future adult, who, with abortion, is murdered.”
The IMF and its impositions, the priest said, have contributed to ending the life of Romero and of many children in Latin America.
“In the past 50 years, this team of priests of the slums has been witness to much death,” Di Paola said. “Catechists, religious and priests have died because of the military government, [as well as ] gun and drug trafficking, and continues seeing the death of adolescents and young.”
“We don’t need to add more deaths! Our neighborhoods need proposals for a dignified life that protects the weakest, not that discards them as pathological garbage,” he said. “Little does the IMF know of the love our mothers feel for the child they’re bearing.”