Neoliberalism in Latin America

Contributions to a Shared Reflection:
A Working Document Prepared by
the Jesuit Provincials of Latin America

This document, which accompanies the letter on neoliberalism in Latin America, is an aid for study, discernment, and the community-based pursuit of courses of action. It is not a scientific analysis of a very complex problem.
It should be read as a presentation of dialogue points about an issue that has been examined from various angles by many others and as an invitation to test other approaches to the quest for a deeper analysis and a way of acting in unity with our fellow Jesuits, laity, and colleagues, men and women with whom we share the cause of justice.
The text introduces concepts about neoliberalism and its attendant conception of human beings. It then illustrates the effects of neoliberalism on the poor and the common good of society, and concludes by suggesting courses of study and action.

1. From our perspective
We, followers of Jesus the poor man, are no better or worse than the Latin American people and its leaders. Nonetheless, we have been called upon, as Church, to contribute so that God may be revealed in the hearts of the men and women, the cultures, and the processes of these peoples.
Dedicated to the ministry of perceiving signs that speak of God in the achievement of human fulfillment, or that silence Him in the human person excluded by others, we have learned, through discernment, that when people allow God to be revealed through them, merciful love, solidarity, forgiveness, justice, and freedom spring forth in communities.
From this perspective, we have contemplated the course of events in our countries in recent years. During the eighties, we saw that the adjustment process necessary to reorganize economies, surmount the fiscal deficit and balance of payments, service the debt, and recover growth proved to be a powerful blow to the majority of the populace in all of our countries.
Subsequently, as the process of adjustment and economic opening progressed during the nineties, it was hoped that the difficult times would be over. But we are discovering that this is not the case, despite the fact that moderate economic growth has occurred. There is a widespread feeling of diminished quality of life among the working class and poor sectors and convincing evidence of deteriorated income distribution. Civic protest is on the rise and, in some areas, armed struggle has re-emerged forcefully as an invitation to change radically the situation. The three most significant causes of general discontent --inequity, misery, and corruption-- persist and have worsened in many ways.
There are 180 million of our brothers and sisters living in poverty and 80 million living in extreme poverty. We know that this problem has a long history of models of uneven economic growth and selective development in which, alongside very rich groups and an important middle class, the immense majorities continue to be excluded from a dignified human life. In recent years, however, we see that an economic model called neoliberalism underlies this situation and penetrates the political sphere and social life as a whole.

2. A conceptual approach to neoliberalism
Neoliberalism, as it is understood in Latin America, is a radical conception of capitalism that tends toward an absolutist view of the market, transforming it into the means, the method, and the end of all rational and intelligent human behavior. Based on this conception, people's lives, the function of society, and government policy are subordinated to the market. This absolute market disallows regulation from any source. It is unfettered, with no financial, labor, technological, or administrative restrictions.
This current of thought and action tends to turn the economic theory of some of the most brilliant economists of modern capitalism, the authors of neoclassic thinking, into a total ideology . These thinkers did not intend to reduce human and societal behavior to the concepts they developed to explain in part the relationships and complex life of people and communities.
Therefore, neoliberalism is not the equivalent of an economy that acknowledges the importance of the market of all goods and services without seeing it as an absolute, nor is it the equivalent of a liberal democracy. Opposing neoliberalism does not mean opposing the efficient use of resources available to society, nor does it mean restricting individual freedom, nor does it mean supporting State socialism.
Rather, opposing neoliberalism means affirming that there are no absolute institutions to explain or direct human history. That men and women cannot be reduced to the market, the State, or any other entity seeking to establish itself as the ultimate authority or institution. It means protecting human freedom by affirming that only God is absolute and that his command is love, which is expressed socially as justice and solidarity. And it means to denounce totalitarian ideologies because their imposition has resulted in injustice, exclusion and violence.

3. Input on the underlying view of the human person in neoliberalism
General Congregation 34 invites us to act on the fact that "the structural injustice in the world is rooted in value systems promoted by a powerful modern culture which is becoming global in its impact." (GC34, 4,24). This impact penetrates our countries through technology and international financial systems.
As this cultural impact becomes worsened by neoliberalism, it tends to value human beings based solely on their capacity to generate income and achieve success in the marketplace. Its reductionist content permeates the leadership of our countries, traverses the middle class, and reaches into the farthest corners of working class, indigenous, and rural communities, destroying solidarity and unleashing violence.
We therefore find ourselves confronting a value system that is profound in that it touches the human heart, and all encompassing because it imposes persuasive messages that cut across the social and institutional life of Latin America.
The perception of the market as absolute even acquires religious connotations. By saying that the market is "correct and just" we empower it to morally legitimize questionable activities. We allow the meaning of life and human fulfillment to be defined by the market.
This value system is characterized by ambiguous symbols with great seductive powers. Thanks to its far reaching influence over mass communication, this value system easily affects local traditions that are unequipped to establish a dialogue which enriches all parties and preserves the identity and freedom of deeply rooted human traditions lacking the market power to disseminate their own messages.
The positive elements of the international mobilization spurred by technological transformations do not escape us. They have led to decline in disease, facilitated communication, increased the time available for leisure and internal life, and made home life more comfortable. However, we also perceive the aspects of these processes that diminish men and women, particularly in the context of neoliberal radicalization: whether intentionally or not, they unleash a race to possess and consume, exacerbate individualism and competition, lead to disregard of community, and cause the integrity of creation to be destroyed.

4. Neoliberal policies
Neoliberalism is characterized by policies of adjustment and economic liberalization that are applied with certain variations in Latin American countries. These policies consider economic growth --and not the fulfillment of men and women in harmony with creation-- as the economy's reason for being. They restrict government intervention to the point of stripping the state of its responsibility to provide the basic goods that each citizen deserves by virtue of being human. They eliminate comprehensive programs to create opportunities for all, replacing them with incidental support for specific groups. They privatize businesses based on the notion that, ultimately, private administration is better for everyone.
These policies open borders without restrictions to merchandise, capital, and financial flows, leaving the smallest and weakest producers without sufficient protection. They are silent on the problem of servicing the foreign debt which requires drastic cutbacks in social spending. They subordinate the complexity of the public treasury to the adjustment of macroeconomic variables: a balanced fiscal budget, inflation reduction, and a stable balance of payments. They base this on the premise that the common good will follow in the long run, without taking into account the new problems for the population caused by the adjustments that government policy must address simultaneously.
They insist that these adjustments will create growth which, when substantial enough, will increase income levels and trickle down to solve the situation of the disadvantaged. They eliminate barriers that could be imposed by legislation to protect workers in order to create incentives for private investment. They exempt powerful groups from taxes and environmental obligations and shelter them in order to accelerate the industrialization process, thus creating an even greater concentration of wealth and economic power.
These adjustment measures have made positive contributions such as: the role of the interplay of market forces in increasing the supply of higher quality products at better prices; inflation reduction throughout the continent; relieving governments of tasks outside of their jurisdiction so that they can turn their attention, if they so desire, to the common good; widespread awareness of fiscal austerity that leads to more effective leveraging of public resources; and progress in trade relations between our nations.
But these factors far from compensate the immense imbalances and disruptions caused by neoliberalism in terms of the exponential increase in urban masses who are unemployed or subsisting with unstable or unproductive jobs; the bankruptcy of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses; the destruction and forced displacement of indigenous and rural populations; the spread of narco-trafficking based in rural sectors whose traditional products are no longer competitive; the disappearance of food security; the increase in criminality more often than not spurred by hunger; the destabilization of national economies caused by the free flow of international speculation; imbalances in local communities due to projects by multinational companies that exclude the local population.

5. Problems of structural poverty exacerbated by neoliberalism
Neoliberalism appears at the core of modern culture and, perhaps unintentionally, produces poverty-generating structural effects that already existed long before the peak of neoliberalism in the eighties. These factors include inequity or injustice in the distribution of income and wealth, instability of social capital, and inequality or exclusion in the terms of trade.

5.1. Uneven distribution of wealth and income
Economic inequity or social inequality bars nearly half of the inhabitants of Latin America and the Caribbean from securing the material conditions necessary to live with dignity and to exercise their rights effectively.
Neoliberalism today, by opposing government-sponsored redistribution, perpetuates and intensifies longstanding socio-economic inequality. Neoliberalism establishes the premise that only the market has the ability to efficiently assign resources and establish different income levels for different social actors. Therefore, efforts are eschewed to achieve social justice through a progressive tax structure and social spending allotments favoring the most disadvantaged; further, attempts to democratize equity or conduct comprehensive agrarian reform are discarded.

5.2. The instability of social capital
Social capital is understood as the whole of the human, natural, infrastructure, and institutional wealth of a society. Social capital, therefore, includes the culture, knowledge, education, natural resources, transportation, and communications that a nation offers to its inhabitants. This capital is shaped gradually by the type of private and government investment that heightens the potential and creativity of all men and women in a country. Social capital is based primarily on the involvement of civil society and government in expanding opportunities.
An examination of social capital in our countries reveals that the supply of education is scarce and of low quality for more than half of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean. Investment in science and technology is minimal in most budgets. Health conditions are dismal. There is an immense vacuum in transportation infrastructure in rural economic areas, and in infrastructure for most poor urban or rural housing. The destruction of natural resources continues. Further, as administrative decentralization processes commence in each country, the extreme fragility of local institutions is revealed, particularly in impoverished population centers.
It could be said that Latin America's poor have always experienced this lack of social capital, but the deficiency has been aggravated by neoliberal policies: the retreat of the State in favor of private initiative, decreased social spending, and failure to support natural and cultural heritage and civic organizations.

5.3. Markets without social control
The market as an historical expression of the need for human beings to support each other in order to permit our present and future fulfillment is neither good nor bad, capitalist nor socialist. It exists as a relationship that must be controlled skillfully, in freedom and solidarity, in order to ensure an agreeable existence for everyone. As with all kinds of relationships, the market can be employed perversely to destroy individuals or entire peoples. But the fact that this perversion is possible should not cause us to forget the patrimony of knowledge and culture that humankind has created around the market throughout history. The challenge is not to destroy the trade relationship but to place it at the service of human fulfillment in harmony with creation; to situate it in a context of equality of basic opportunity for all people, and to dignify it by liberating it from the forces of domination and exploitation that distorted it into the modes of production that proliferated in the western world (SRS 28).
With the advent of neoliberalism, social imbalances produced by a market uncontrolled by civil society and the State are underscored.{1} In fact, by neglecting the production of social capital, the market remains at the service of the most educated, those who own infrastructure and place institutions at their service, and those who concentrate information. By establishing labor and financial deregulation, the market easily transfers the value produced to nuclei of national and international accumulation. The population often is not included in the vigorous production of value added. And in processes such as the maquila [assembly] industry or the informal economy, the people are not allowed to benefit from the wealth produced. There has not, in fact, been a process of increasingly involving the poor, working, and middle classes in economic relationships with the capacity to retain the value added and overcome poverty.
The labor market is the central factor in the integration of the world economy. In the current neoliberal competition, investment seeks cheap labor. This keeps production costs down, hurting both Latin American workers who are badly paid, and workers in the North, by creating unemployment as factories migrate to the South. Further, workers from poor countries are barred routinely from entering richer countries.
In an unrestricted financial market, short term financial capital, so-called "hot money", migrates with the sole purpose of making the most of advantages in monetary and banking systems. Such capitals can totally destabilize any country, with devastating effects even on the strongest Latin American economies.
The effects of a market without social controls have been particularly severe for rural populations hard hit by the economic opening which put millions of peasants out of business -and, for which the lack of social capital is much greater.
Therefore, taking the region as a whole, it can be seen that neoliberal policies aggravate the structural problems underlying poverty: distribution of wealth, social capital, and the social distortions produced by a market operating without social controls.

5.4. Neoliberalism and generalized social crisis
It is essential to reflect on the relationships between neoliberalism and generalized social crisis in our societies because we observe that longstanding problems in our societies, with both pre-modern and modern roots, have intensified along with persistent poverty and growing inequality,. We are dangerously propelled by a culture that exacerbates the ambition to possess, accumulate, and consume; one in which individual success in the market supplants the fulfillment of all people in participatory communities united in solidarity.
Indeed, throughout the continent a general breakdown in societies can be observed which has multiple causes and is characterized by: family instability, increasing and diverse forms of violence, discrimination against women, environmental degradation, manipulation of individuals by the mass media, harassment of rural peasant and indigenous communities, expansion of inhospitable cities, discredited political parties, corruption of leadership, privatization of government institutions by economically powerful groups, state inability to govern, the proliferation of alienating commodities such as drugs and pornography, and complex secularization processes and spiritual quests that disregard commitment to community and acts of solidarity.
Neoliberalism exacerbates this crisis by contributing to the disappearance of the common good as a political and economic priority. The common good is supplanted by the goal of balancing market forces. Contrary to the Church's social thought -which espouses as large a governments as necessary to ensure the common good, neoliberalism flatly asserts that less government is best, such as is required for good macroeconomic operations and to promote private enterprise.
In this context, the concern for the overall quality of life of present and future populations embodied by the so-called welfare states, vanishes from the horizon. When the common good disappears as a goal, the sense of a communal or public household disappears with it.
Therefore it is not necessary to care for the family as the nucleus and cell of a common good that has lost its value. Women become merely the cheapest labor force. Nature becomes a source of rapid enrichment for the present generation, and the peasant becomes an inefficient citizen who must emigrate.
In this panorama, the public domain tends to disappear and political parties premised on society and nation-building become irrelevant. Political and administrative competition is reduced to demonstrating that the candidate or president is the one most able to create the conditions demanded by the open, free play of market forces. All of these are subordinated to programs of economic adjustment and opening imposed by the international requirements of the market.
In a context where community is irrelevant and the common good worthless, it should surprise no one that violence intensifies, drug production and consumption skyrocket, and those aspects of the prevailing culture most contrary to human fulfillment are reinforced, even as the most valuable contributions of the modern and post-modern periods are discarded.

6. Tasks that we must undertake
Faced with a reality so contrary to the work of the Creator, the demands of faith -that God may be a God among us- call us to resist the forces destroying our brothers and sisters and to work together with others for change -to contribute to building a society closer to the Kingdom of solidarity and brotherhood found in the Gospel.
< IMG SRC="spacer.gif" HSPACE=10>The price that we must pay for our determination is irrelevant. We have no alternative. Our very loyalty to Jesus Christ is at stake. Jesuit martyrs in different Latin American countries have given their lives for the creation of conditions that make living in brotherhood possible.
Our aspiration is to contribute to the construction of a society in which all people, without exception, receive the goods and services they deserve by virtue of having been called to share this common path to the Father. A just society, in which no one is excluded, sensitive to the weak, the disadvantaged, those who have suffered the impact of socio-economic policies that do not put human beings first. A democratic society, built through participation, and equitable in its gender relations. A society in which we can live as a family and look to the future with hope, share nature and bequeath its marvels to future generations. A society attentive to the cultural traditions that formed the unique identity of our peoples.

6.1. Studying neoliberalism
The first task awaiting us is to fully understand neoliberalism and its attendant social dynamics, and to ascertain its rationale and supposed ethics.
To accomplish this, we propose to embark on a coordinated reflection and action process which gathers the conceptual contributions and experiences of different provinces, processes them in a useful manner, and makes them available for the most effective action, toward the universal good, within the Social Initiative of the Company.
This process begins by seriously addressing the relevant questions in our communities and works:
What is neoliberalism and how can we acquire a thorough understanding of it?
What are its anthropological, philosophical, economic, and historical roots?
What ethic is implicit in its positions and what does theology have to say about it?
How should our Ignatian spirituality approach it?
How to discern its effects upon people, institutions, and communities?
How to get at the heart of this culture in the dialogue with modernity, globalization, and technology?
How to prepare Jesuits, and particularly young people, to be discerning about this reality?
How to work in collaboration with many others, civil society's institutions, the churches and religious movements, and governments, to be effective here, where the meaning of the men and women of our continent is at stake?
How to enter into dialogue with those who make technical and political decisions that have devastating consequences for the poor?
How to educate our students so that they become capable of building a different world? How to confront the obsession to consume in the media and rescue humanism, aesthetics, the free pleasures of nature, the richness of the spirit, and the satisfaction of acting in solidarity?
This task of interdisciplinary research must be conducted in conjunction with the laity, and other Christians and non-Christians, in an apostolic network that involves our universities, research and social action centers, and many other institutions internationally committed to the cause of justice and life (GC 34, 3.23).
Understanding the anthropological underpinnings of the neoliberal current and its effects should be part of the culture of all Jesuits. Therein lies the importance of training everyone in social sciences, economics, politics, public ethics... in order to be able to meet with clarity the present and future challenges this situation poses for us.
As we deepen our understanding of these complex realities, we must then turn to Ignatian discernment and take the demands of the Spirit to the Exercises, spiritual accompaniment, and preaching.
We must impart understanding of the situation to our high school and university students and transmit it pedagogically through the mass media.

6.2. Overcoming exclusion (GC34 d 3, 15).
We have an immense pedagogical task: social exclusion is increasing as the common good disappears and each individual seeks his or her own advantage in the market. A formal and informal education process must be initiated to transform exclusive institutions, businesses and projects, policies that exclude, and men and women who are actors of exclusion, often without realizing it. We have to begin by looking at ourselves, our preferences, and the groups we spend time with. We too can be part of the forces of exclusion. And we also have to promote change among the excluded, because they often are counterparts to the type of national and international society that we have created.
The challenge lies in beginning with those who have been left out and, from there, alongside the poor and walking with them, propose for all the most inclusive or participatory society possible and feasible. For this reason the task calls for a structural transformation of our societies that goes beyond simply opposing the disturbing aspects of neoliberalism. It is not a matter of including the excluded in systems that foster exclusion. It is a matter of gradual and patient efforts to create a society of solidarity where one does not now exist.

6.3. Overcoming the culture of poverty
This expression does not allude to the culture of the poor, with its values and ambiguities. The expression refers to the behavior of society as a whole, at a national and continental level. A society whose leadership, and social, political, educational, and religious institutions have come to coexist with poverty as a matter of course. Although the means exists to remedy this situation, there is no interest in employing them.
It could be said that this culture of poverty has existed for decades in Latin America, but this way of seeing and feeling things has found a perverse justification in the propagation of neoliberalism in each of our countries. Indeed, neoliberalism is not shocked by the existence of millions of poor and destitute in Latin America: these people have nothing to complain about because they have no market value. And the purpose of the economy is not to lift them out of poverty, but rather to produce more, sell more, and earn more.

6.4. The search for viable economic alternatives
One of the most urgent responsibilities is to progress from critical analysis to proposals. Therefore, we must present viable alternatives for humane and sustainable development, guided by the common good, that assure the fulfillment of all of our brothers and sisters, present and future, in harmony with nature.
In very general terms, the following are among the topics that must be studied:
The goods that everyone deserves
Our focus should be primarily to ensure that governments and societies guarantee for everyone the goods that each individual deserves by virtue of being human, sons and daughters of God. These are goods that must be guaranteed as basic citizens' rights, whether or not the families are capable of purchasing these indispensable items on the markets. Such goods are health, education, security, a house and home. These things are genuinely public property. We do not seek a welfare state committed to filling the insatiable demands of consumer-oriented citizens. We want a just society where each person has the minimum required to live with dignity.

Natural resources
Sustainable development requires environmental security and equity among men and women of the present and the future. It is essential to present alternatives so that the economy manages natural resources differently than the management currently imposed by neoliberalism, which disregards the long term social and ecological costs and benefits. We have the enormous responsibility to find new paths that guarantee the quality of life of all people, with patterns of consumption and exploitation that differ from northern countries and the rich elite of our societies who destroy the environment and appropriate the riches of the earth to the extreme that 20 per cent of the world population consumes 80 per cent of the earth's resources.

Gender equality
In recent years, as the incomes of salaried workers have decreased and unemployment has risen, families have been obliged to have several members participating in the informal sector. Currently, in the informal labor market, middle and working class women are forced to work triple time: they work to contribute to the family income, they shoulder the burden of housework, and they raise the children. Women are also treated as objects in advertising and as commodities. In this context, it is important to recall the reflections of General Congregation 34 that speaks to us of "a systematic discrimination against women" and suggests that we become involved in this task that "is indeed a central concern of any contemporary mission which seeks to integrate faith and justice" (GC34, 14).
In the Latin American context, the words of the Congregation make perfect sense: "There is a `feminization of poverty' and a `feminine face of oppression'." It is imperative that we respond to the call for us to align ourselves in solidarity with women in specific ways: listening to women, explicit teaching of the fundamental equality of men and women, supporting liberation movements that oppose the exploitation of women, and involving women in the Company's activities.

Rural policy
The neoliberal opening has brought ruin to peasants throughout the continent. Small and medium-sized farmers comprise the majority of agricultural producers in nearly all of our countries. To embark on a different process requires the vigorous promotion of a complex series of measures including: peasant involvement in modernizing production structures; research on unique systems; access to new technologies and technical assistance; links to the national and international markets without discontinuing on-farm consumption; attention to the typical conditions and needs of different products and areas; agricultural and livestock credit, land tenancy, distribution, and titling; de-centralization of market distribution and information channels; credit; and the provision of transportation, rural electricity, and public education and health services. All of this in a framework of sustainable agriculture and food security.

Industrial policy
In the neoliberal economic framework, the export industry is the engine of development. Nonetheless, although this industry has grown, it is not the engine for the rest of the economy because it has not been well integrated with other sectors and is highly dependent on imports. It is necessary to find ways to diversify manufacturing and agro-industrial methods in order to support medium-sized and small businesses -and not only big business-, to meet the population's basic needs, to strengthen society's accumulated technology, and to promote fairness and sustainable growth.

Labor policy
Today's economic forces tend to compete internationally by lowering labor costs and paying low wages. It is necessary to promote fair strategies that lead to competitive insertion into the markets by developing people's qualifications and creativity and changing the corporate image to one of a genuine work community (CA. 32) And, this must be situated in a context of overcoming un- and underemployment.

Foreign debt
The Supreme Pontiff, in the spirit of the Book of Leviticus, invites us to make the Jubilee of the year 2000 an opportune moment to consider the "reducing substantially, if not canceling outright the international debt" (TMA.51). It is important to keep in mind that the foreign debt severely limits the potential for equitable and sustainable development from Mexico to Chile. We cannot overlook this aspect of international justice which preys daily on the working class majorities and remains a constant concern of the Church.

There is a clear need to contribute to the introduction of well-reasoned proposals for Latin American and Caribbean governments and societies to position themselves to negotiate the canceling of a significant portion of the debt, especially that portion incurred by the abrupt hike in interest rates. And, the portion of the debt that cannot be canceled should be examined, assuring, at minimum, that servicing the debt does not jeopardize public spending. Further, it is imperative to help formulate alternatives so that all of our countries confront together this common problem, as well as its repercussions for the daily lives of the poor.

With the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund
The challenge is to promote dialogue and analyze rigorous proposals that have been developed by our fellow Jesuits from around the continent based on the initiative of the Center of Concern in Washington D.C.
With respect to the North American economy, we should contribute to dialogue regarding the decisions that most affect Latin America: financial system, institutions, multinational corporations. The private financial sector should be studied very carefully by our universities and social centers. This sector is mobilizing billions of dollars that concentrate credit in rich countries and have destabilizing effects on the principal Latin American economies.

6.5. Overcoming the crisis in society
As described earlier, the crisis in our societies has historical roots and diverse causes and is aggravated by neoliberalism. By the same token, we cannot overlook basic elements of the common good when we attempt to propose alternatives to the neoliberal political economy.
Building civil society
"The Church, whose mission we share, exists not for itself but for humanity" (GC34, 2.3) Affirming their Christian roots and respecting the autonomy of territorial realities, our communities of solidarity should be available to the collective citizenry in order to strengthen the public domain. This urgency is greater in those of our countries where there is greater pressure for silence and for the suppression of civic responsibility toward solidarity and the common good (GC34, 4.23).

Reinvigorating the political vocation
We must contribute to the education of men and women with political vocation, in order to overcome the crisis of governability, restore dignity to public service, and establish social controls favoring the common good over the political economy and markets. In this way, they can dedicate themselves to building governments that ensure the dignity of all citizens and are responsive to the poor.

Transforming government
We should contribute to interdisciplinary study that clarifies the protagonist role of government in an alternative development model that is sustainable, equitable, and people-centered. A government that offers alternatives to the neoliberal concept that requires government to be reduced to a minimum. Contemporary examples of successful development are characterized by an effective and efficient government role in prioritizing goals and expenditures, imposing restrictions and distributing losses; the State plays a significant role in strategic projects and the appropriate administration of the goods that everyone deserves.

Developing a public ethic
Keeping in mind that neoliberalism subordinates moral conduct to the market and has destructive consequences for communities, we must contribute to the establishment of a public or civic ethic from the perspective of followers of Jesus Christ who ultimately is our moral authority. In this task we are simply citizens together with others, believers and non-believers, who are responsible for asserting relevant moral values in a profoundly changing reality. Without such values our societies cannot survive, nor can they ensure the fulfillment of all their members. In this effort we will be educators, with many other men and women, about life, the search for truth, justice and human rights, the struggle against corruption, peace, and safeguarding the integrity of creation.
This ethical task has a more profound dimension for us as Jesuits. To wit, to seek apostolic strategies so that our dialogue about economic policies takes the perspective of the gospel to the heart of the cultural experience: where we find or reject God, build or destroy the meaning of human beings and nature, welcome or impede the Kingdom. This is the place of deep discernment, where we must insert ourselves with lucidity, understanding, and freedom, and work with others to build new social relationships of transparency, justice, and solidarity.
IMG SRC="spacer.gif" HSPACE=10>Concretely, it is essential that, with an Ignatian approach of seeking the most universal good, we succeed in touching the consciences of economic and financial policy-makers so that their technical determinations have positive effects in transforming the culture of poverty and death into a culture of shared life.

6.6. A Latin American perspective
It is important to look at Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole in this reflection. This territory, with its shared cultural and spiritual roots, has been seen as a mosaic of nations with different destinies. It is impossible to see things this way in the future. It would be the equivalent of tying ourselves to a past that is over.
We still do not know what this Latin American unity means. But the rapid progress in this direction is vigorous and irreversible.
It is very difficult to progress in this direction if we lose sight of the international dimension (GC34, 3, 7). Therein lies the importance of deepening the dialogue and shared tasks among fellow Jesuits, between Jesuits and lay people with whom we work, and among our institutions.
This vision must lead us to a pan-American continental solidarity, a lucid solidarity that allows us to dialogue with our North American colleagues in order to undertake joint studies and pursuits to propose alternatives to problems such as those related to multinational corporations that compete on the basis of low wages in our countries and harm workers at both extremes of the of the Americas. We must unite when misery prompts Latin Americans to migrate to the United States and Canada; when the north sells weapons to our countries to intensify fratricidal violence and war becomes one more cause of displacement to other frontiers; when the pension funds of U.S. workers are invested in volatile Latin American financial markets; when, even in the United States and Canada, social solidarity is waning and poverty is on the rise; when halting the spread of cocaine and heroin is only possible by working simultaneously to diminish demand in the north and supply in the south.
The problems have varied connotations and varied interests in different parts of the continent. The moment has come for Latin American Jesuits, united, to join with our brother Jesuits in the north, and to shoulder together common pursuits, in all their complexity, for the good of the human community of the American continents which we, as Church, serve.

7. Conclusion
We want to promote strenuously the justice that stems from our faith and deepens it according to the changing needs of our peoples and cultures, and the unique characteristics of the historic moment on our continent (GC34, 3,5). Men and women will always be threatened by the avarice of wealth, ambition for power, and the insatiable search for gratification. Today this threat is embodied by neoliberalism, tomorrow it will find other ideological manifestations, and new idols will emerge. We in the Church have been called to contribute to the liberation of our brothers and sisters from human disorder and we will remain present in this ministry to all, remaining among our friends the poor, as our friend Jesus Christ did (GC34, 2, 9).
We want to preserve the best of the inheritance of two decades of "casting our lot with the poor." (SCJ) To do this, we want to multiply "communities of solidarity at the grass-roots and nongovernmental as well as the political level." (GC, 3, 10) To strengthen human rights work; and the accompaniment of traditionally excluded sectors: indigenous, peasants, urban slum and working class populations in big cities, displaced persons and refugees, women, the aged, addicts, AIDS sufferers, and abandoned children.
< IMG SRC="spacer.gif" HSPACE=10>We invite all of our Provinces to engage in a study and discernment process on neoliberalism, poverty, and the breakdown of our societies, to undertake initiatives that confront this reality in our apostolates. We find that communities of solidarity can be an extraordinary tool for this undertaking.
After a prudent time period, each one of our provinces will present the results of this spiritual, intellectual, and practical exercise. These results will be studied and analyzed by the Provincial Superiors, with the assistance of social coordinators, in order to continue to unify our efforts at a continental level.
This entire undertaking will progress in coordination with the initiative of the Social Apostolate of the Society as a whole.(2)

(1) Because of these markets, 20 per cent of the world's inhabitants obtain 82.7 per cent of world income, while 60 per cent of inhabitants obtain 5.6 per cent of world income. The inequalities and restrictions of international markets, and unequal partnerships, cost developing countries approximately U.S.$500 billion annually, a figure that is ten times greater than the amount they receive in foreign aid. In the financial market, the poorest 20 per cent of the world population is involved in only 0.2 per cent of international commercial bank loans. The North, with nearly one quarter of the world population, consumes 70 per cent of world energy, 75 per cent of metals, 85 per cent of wood, and 60 per cent of foodstuffs (Human Development Report, UNDP).

(2) Documents cited: Tertio Millenio Adveniente - TMA; General Congregation 34 -CG34; Sollicitudo Rei Socialis -SRS; Centesimus Annus -CA; Seminario Cesar Jerez (Los Neoliberales y los Pobres [Neoliberalists and the Poor]) - SCJ.