Today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required) brings a reminder that Liberation Theology (or more accurately, Marxism) is alive and well in Central America. A Canadian firm has set up shop in Sipicapa, Guatemala, constructing a gold mine that is currently employing around 1,300 local residents and providing a much needed economic boost for the area:
The Glamis gold mine has already given an economic lift to this town and more so to neighboring San Miguel Ixtahuacán. Glamis took ownership of the project in an acquisition. Company officials say they have since spent $11 million buying property from willing sellers at an average of $4,500 per acre.
Of almost 2,400 workers employed in constructing the mine as of last month, 1,300 are locals. A foreman tells me that some of the unskilled workers he has hired are now operating million dollar machinery and with overtime and benefits pulling down over $1,000 per month. Two of those are 20-something women, whose other options for employment around here are close to zilch. The mine has a 24-hour medical clinic and two ambulances. It says that, drawing from its experience in Honduras, it expects about half of those who use the medical facilities over time to be neither employees nor their families. Glamis is also sponsoring a nonprofit foundation teaching business skills.
When construction is finished and operations commence, employment will drop to around 350 jobs. Tim Miller, Glamis’s vice president for Central America, says that the company hopes to rotate some of the jobs so that as many families as possible can benefit. When the mine is exhausted, the company has committed to restoring the land and donating it for commercial use.
Sounds like a pretty good deal for an impoverished community. Unfortunately, the local church doesn’t see it that way, and has allied with wealthy environmentalists to vociferously object to the project:
Opposition is led by a bearded Italian living at the parish of St. Bartholomew and known to the locals as “Padre” Roberto. But as I found out after an hour in the rectory garden with him and his political sidekick, a local collaborator called Juan Tema, the “padre” is not a priest. Nor is he a religious brother or a seminarian. Rather he is a layman who carries out “administrative” duties for the parish.
One of those duties appears to be preaching the gospel according to Che. Fidel Castro did a lot for Cuba, he tells me and what he’d like for this town is to close off the roads and produce everything here, “like the [Mexican] Zapatistas did.” When I point out that he has a Nike hat, an Adidas jacket and Spalding footwear he avoids the point, smiles and adds, “and an Italian heart.” Roberto seems to be on a revolutionary adventure from the ordinariness of Italy and this is his playground. He doesn’t think that the mine can be stopped. “But it’s like a cancer,” he says, “and the idea is to keep it from spreading.”
This is twisted, reprehensible thinking. These men of the church claim to be protectors of the poor, but the only thing they are protecting the poor from is the opportunity to rise out of poverty. Economic growth, far from being a “cancer,” is actually the cure for the social ills associated with extreme poverty. Jesus said that “the poor will always be with you;” but that wasn’t intended to be an instruction to His church to oppose the means by which the poor rise from poverty.
Rev. Robert A. Sirico addressed the re-emergence of leftism and Liberation Theology in a 2003 commentary:
The simple truth is that redistribution, centralization of power, expropriation of wealth and the like, will not raise the standards of living. Only market economics, more secure property rights, freer trade, and sounder currencies, can do that. What’s more, measures like disempowering owners of factories and farms, erecting protectionism in the name of combating globalism, and handing out more subsidies to people who vote in a leftist direction, none of this creates wealth. Quite the opposite. It increases dependency and poverty. No economy has ever grown through statism.