Brazil remains the "world champion in social inequalities" and must scrap its pro-market economic policies, representatives of Brazil's Catholic Church said Saturday.
Less than two months before general elections, members of the Brazilian National Bishops Conference launched a blistering attack on the state of South America's biggest nation, nearly 500 years after colonization began.A letter compiled after debates involving more than 10,000 church-go-ers called for cuts in foreign debt repayments - running at about $5 billion a month - and a total rethink of economic policy to relieve poverty.
"The neo-liberal model implemented in Brazil, principally from 1990, has reinforced the existing structural inequalities within Brazilian society," said the letter.
"We live under the dominance of the so-called laws of the market, of individualism, of competitiveness and consumerism," the document said.
It was distributed at the end of a five-day meeting of representatives of the CNBB to discuss social issues.
Without referring to President Fernando Henrique Cardoso specifically, the letter harshly criticized the economic policies adopted by his government, including privatization and the lowering of import tariffs.
Social democrat Cardoso is firm favorite to win re-election in October, thanks mainly to his success in cutting Brazil's once rampant inflation to an expected 1.5 percent this year.
He claims to have reduced the number of people living in poverty to about 25 percent of Brazil's 160 million population, down from 35 percent in 1994 when he took office.
Cardoso aides say the only aspect of Brazilian society to have worsened since he took over in 1994 is unemployment. The official jobless rate is at a record 8 percent.
But the CNBB document saw the need for a totally new approach to the country's problems.
"We need to build a new society based on value and policies capable of distributing wealth, income, land and knowledge, creating the opportunities for all Brazilians to live with justice, dignity and happiness," the letter said.