Pope Francis has made fighting against human trafficking one of the centerpieces of his pontificate. One of his closest collaborators in the struggle is Gustavo Vera, the leader of the Alameda Foundation. The Argentine organization has worked for years to end the scourge of human exploitation in the Pope's home country.
The two met in 2008, when the foundation was going through a critical period.
"It was a very important year for us, because we were attacked by many of the criminal groups we had denounced. We had already been attacked 18 times on our premises. The victims were people who had testified against criminal groups in various courts.”
Since then, the two saw each other often and developed a friendship. Then-Cardinal Bergoglio celebrated Mass on the fifth anniversary of a tragic fire that killed at least six people in an underground factory in Buenos Aires.
CARD. JORGE MARIO BERGOGLIO
March 27, 2011 (Source: Alameda Foundation)
"And do not be afraid in this fight for justice. We can repeat it again today: justice for the so many men and women subjected to trafficking is long overdue.”
Organized crime in Argentina has grown in recent years. According to the United Nations, the South American country could become the third largest producer of cocaine in the world. Vera attributes this problem to corruption.
"Pope Francis is concerned, certainly, by the growth of the drug trade in Argentina. He is concerned that now the country is no longer just a transit hub, but also a consumer. And we also have evidence that production is happening. He is concerned about the level of corruption, which makes drug trafficking easier in the country.”
In late February, Vera published a private email from the Pope, in which he expressed concerned that Argentina would soon face many of the problems that Mexico has in recent years.
"This is a mafia state, where organized crime is blending with the government, which enables crime. And this is generating a process that can lead to situations like the one in Mexico.”
Vera said that he expected Pope Francis and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to discuss corruption when they meet in June.
"There are issues that come from the Church and from Pope Francis, for which Cristina Kirchner will have to provide an explanation. She will have to answer about levels of drug trafficking and money laundering in the country.”
The meeting will also take place just months before the country's general election, which is scheduled for October 25th.
MG / RR / Alameda Foundation