He is one of those responsible for the new winds sweeping the Peruvian Catholic church. He condemns the ruthless US blockade against Cuba for its “moral perversity” and severely criticises the neoliberal economic model.
From his position of Archbishop of the central Andean city of Huancayo, Peru, Cardinal Pedro Barreto is developing intense social activity.
In dialogue with the press, he spoke about transnationals, of the dramatic situation of the Peruvian people in the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for general access to the longed-for vaccine against the virus.
Many Latin American countries have launched a sort-of competition to be the first to have the vaccine against Coronavirus. Does this sound wise to you?
It is understandable that authorities in every country are promoting the acquisition of a vaccine against Covid-19. However, the root problem is avoiding the vaccine becoming part of the supply and demand mechanism in the global market as a commodity. Undoubtedly, as demand is very high, there will be a selective offering for the prohibitive cost of the vaccine. Pope Francis has drawn attention to the vaccines – as a social benefit – reaching the poorest and most marginalised.
In this respect, I know that in some countries, such as Peru, governments have made an agreement to buy the vaccine from specific laboratories.
The problem is not just getting the vaccines to the country. It is the process of distributing and applying the vaccine to the population.
Pope Francis has also asked for economic embargoes to cease, at least during the current pandemic. What is your opinion on the blockade of Cuba?
In a critical situation like the one we are experiencing in the world, we need to break the barriers of discrimination against people, regardless of motivation.
Every economic blockade enormously affects the population and their dignity as human beings. It is contrary to the culture of peace. An example of this moral perversity is the economic blockade that Cuba has experienced for the last 60 years.
You have severely criticised the virtual monopoly on oxygen in Peru, the price of which is the subject of speculation in the middle of the pandemic, due to hospitals not having enough oxygen.
Is the situation still the same? Is it enough to have solidarity from the population to solve the problem or are more substantial solutions required?
Here I can talk about the critical situation we are experiencing in Peru because of the lack of medicinal oxygen in hospitals and homes for treating those sick with Covid-19.
A foreign business, Praxair, supplies 85% of the demand in the country. In itself this fact reveals the unjust situation the Peruvian public has been experiencing for decades.
It is a form of social and financial slavery that causes desperation, anguish and death for many brothers and sisters due to lack of oxygen. This is the responsibility of a government that allows it and the current financial system that puts profits first and not service to people.
Civilian society, faced with the pressing health situation, decided to help the State by carrying out campaigns for the acquisition of oxygen-generating plants for the various hospitals in the country.
This is not the solution. It’s true. But it is a very significant gesture of solidarity against the overwhelming problem and the lack of sanitary response from the State.
However, the fundamental problem is structural injustice caused, in large part, by social indifference, government irresponsibility and generalised corruption. For this reason, the Catholic Church’s social thinking has reiterated, on numerous occasions, the need to find a new model of comprehensive human development different to the current one.
When you talk about the current economic system, you are referring to the neoliberal economic model. What other considerations do you have of this model?
I am referring to the neoliberal system because, as Pope Francis said, this capitalist economic model can’t take it anymore, it is broken, because it concentrates wealth on a minority group while the vast majority are excluded and considered disposable.
This neoliberal system has imposed profits at any price without thinking of social exclusion and the destruction of nature. And the fundamental reason is hoarding wealth and that, through money, dominating the social life of the world and of countries, especially the poorest ones.
Because of this, says the Pope, I can say that this neoliberal system is faceless and heartless, it only offers life with slavery to the power of money and makes us believe that we are important for what we have and not who we are.
Many criticise the lack of empathy and solidarity from big companies towards the serious social crisis that Covid-19 has caused in your country.
Big transnational companies – with some exceptions – are insensitive to social problems. They are heartless and don’t listen to the cries of the poor. It is true that a good number of businesses are suffering economic effects from the Covid-19 pandemic. But they are big companies who, in this time of confinement, have increased their production or services, such as in the case of communications or those who provide medicinal oxygen, among others. In honour of the truth, I must recognise that there do exist companies with social responsibility who are delivering a service of solidarity in the middle of a health crisis that has become a humanitarian one.