May 11, 2007
Pope Benedict XVI (formerly Joseph Ratzinger) is visiting Brazil, in conjunction with the first conference of Latin American bishops for the last 15 years. It is the first time he has been to Latin America since he was elevated to Pontiff. He used the occasion to canonize the first saint born in Brazil, the 18th Century monk Friar Galvao, who was famed for miraculous healings. The Pope warned Brazilians not to fall prey to hedonistic temptations, but hedonism is practically the essence of Brazil's national identity. Although Brazil is "the world's most populous Catholic nation," most of the people are not particularly devout, and paganism is perhaps as strong there as Christianity is. See BBC.
A strike by teachers in Argentina that began last month has turned into a big political mess. President Kirchner persuaded the governor of his home state of Santa Cruz to resign after protests got out of hand, embarrassing Kirchner. The president is getting a reputation for governing in a heavy-handed authoritarian style, which is sadly in keeping with Argentina's political culture. See CNN.com. Kirchner's style of cynical, hard-ball politics has cost him moral authority to deal with grievances such as the teachers who seek higher pay. If he can exploit nationalistic sentiments to coerce the World Bank into backing down on demands for debt repayment, then interest groups in his own country can expect to get their way by using similar Machiavellian tactics.
Shining Path leader Abimael Guzman and his second-in-command Elena Iparraguirre, both of whom are serving life sentences for terrorism, plan to get married, but no date has been set. If the jailhouse nuptials do take place, the "happy couple" will get six conjugal visits per year. See CNN.com. Guzman was a philosophy professor who became enamored of Mao Zedong and set about killing and destroying much of the infrastructure of the Peruvian highlands from 1980 until 1992, when he was captured.