Analysis

Pope Francis Is Positioned to Transform Latin America, But Will He?
Pope Francis waves to the crowd from an open-air jeep, ahead of his weekly general audience in St Peter's Square in Vatican City on March 27, 2013. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
March 29, 2013
| Security
| Europe, The Americas
Summary
The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the election of Argentina’s Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, as the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church came only eight days apart in early March, stunning the world and opening up new possibilities for Latin America — a region that continues to lag behind its richer neighbors to the north, not only in terms of wealth, but also in terms of the economic and political freedom afforded its population.
 
Political consultant Dick Morris, who has worked extensively in Latin America advising political candidates, met then-Cardinal Bergoglio a few years ago. Morris told LIGNET last week that he believes Chavez’s death combined with Pope Francis’ elevation is a “game changer” for the region. Morris says he believes that the new pontiff is comparable to Mahatma Gandhi in his simplicity, concern for the poor and desire to improve the lot of his fellow man, and like the Indian leader could make history.
LIGNET sees the potential for transformational change in Latin America’s future, but is less optimistic than Morris and others who see Pope Francis as someone who could take Latin American into a new age. Having said this, we are not among the many who regularly underestimate the geopolitical influence of the Vatican, which can be significant, especially in regions where the Catholic Church’s membership is large. 
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