Bolívar in Brussels: Pope Francis Needs a Tango Partner

The years 1978 and 1979 will undoubtedly go down in history as two of the most important years in the history of advancing the cause of human dignity and freedom.  In October of 1978, Cardinal Karol Jozef Wojtyla of Poland became Pope John Paul II when he was elected by the College of Cardinals.  Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in over 400 years.  The Blessed John Paul II made no secret of his Polish roots while he was Pope.  He gave various speeches denouncing the barbaric acts which occurred behind the iron curtain in the name of the state religion known as communism.  Then in May of 1979, Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.  Prime Minister Thatcher was the first and so far the only woman to serve as British Prime Minister.  As Prime Minister, Baroness Thatcher made freedom of the individual her goal both in Britain and the world at large.  It is because of these two giants of history (as well as President Reagan) that many people throughout the world, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, can now stand up as free men and women.

Image courtesy of Christus Vincit, © 2013, some rights reserved.

Image courtesy of Christus Vincit, © 2013, some rights reserved.

Now, the months of March and April in the year 2013 will also be remembered as monumental moments in world history.  On March 13th 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected Pope.  Pope Francis is the first-ever Latin American pope.  Then on April 8th 2013, Baroness Thatcher passed away after a long battle with dementia.  It is unfortunate that good news must often be accompanied by bad news.  Now that the Church has a Latin American pope, a region of the world where many governments are cracking down on civil liberties, there is an opportunity to spread hope.  Pope Francis has a unique platform as Pope to confront President Kirchner as she slowly but surely seeks to silence dissent.  However, the Pope cannot confront the evils of authoritarian rule single-handedly from the Vatican; like the Blessed John Paul II before him, Francis needs to partner-up with another world leader.  Pope Francis needs a tango partner; you would think that as a famous Argentine man, this should not be a difficult task for the Pontiff.  However, this decision would affect the lives of millions of people and should be taken with care.  Therefore, who should it be?  Who can it be?

Many plausible candidates come to mind as individuals who would join the Pope in the courageous fight for the freedom of oppressed people.  The person who should be at the top of the list of the Pope should be President Barack Obama.  President Obama in 2011 spoke of shifting the focus of his foreign policy to Asia.  Despite this priority, the Pope should reach out to the President.  Ties between the United States and the Vatican have always demonstrated a high level of cooperation.  One of the greatest examples of U.S.-Vatican cooperation in recent times was the relationship between President Reagan the Blessed Pope John Paul II.  These two men (with Baroness Thatcher) defeated Communism in Europe.  President Obama, as I have said before, should make Latin America a foreign policy priority.  If Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador or Bolivia (among others) had different leadership, this would make for much better lives for their people.  In the four aforementioned countries, their economies suffer from the bloated bureaucracy of state-owned enterprises and the press is constantly intimidated to the point of self-censorship.  If President Obama put the full weight of his power and The State Department towards increasing freedom in Latin America, it is quite possible he would achieve this.

Another interesting candidate to cooperate with Pope Francis would be President Kirchner of Argentina.  While he (Pope Francis) was a Cardinal in Argentina, the two of them had several public disagreements over many different issues.  However, President Kirchner has already publicly demonstrated a willingness to work with the Pontiff.  Shortly after he began his tenure as Pope, Francis was publicly approached by Kirchner and asked to use his powers as Pontiff towards securing The Falklands for Argentina.  The Pope has previously stated in 2011 and on other occasions that he believes The Falklands, or Las Malvinas as he calls them, belong to Argentina.  Despite their agreement on this issue, as previously stated, Pope Francis and President Kirchner have had so many disagreements on issues such as gay marriage (among others) that the likelihood of the two cooperating is not very high.  The Pope would be taking a high risk by elevating President Kirchner to the position of being a partner for freedom.  As President, Kirchner has vigorously challenged the freedom of the press and has gleefully nationalized privately owned businesses.

Finally, another dance partner worth considering is Prime Minister Cameron.  Granted, the Prime Minister is more accustomed to waltzing with a duchess who went to Sevenoaks than tangoing with an Argentine man from a middle-class barrio, but perhaps he can do this.  It would be a remarkable extension of an olive branch to the British Prime Minister considering the tension over The Falklands, especially considering the recent referendum on the islands.  Also, if the Pope does this while calling for reason and moderation on the issue, it would be a way of showing Kirchner that she has no power over him.  By excluding her from the process, the Pope would delegitimize her rule and demonstrate to the Argentine people that she is not invincible.  These actions would bring hope to the Argentine people.  While ultimately, the Pope can have a larger impact and bring the politics of freedom to several countries in Latin America, this process must start in Argentina.  Even though he has a certain degree of influence on over 1 billion people in the world, the Pope cannot tango solo.  So, who wants to dance?