BUENOS AIRES – Dozens of people turned out in front of the Buenos Aires cathedral on Tuesday for a “pańuelazo,” a peaceful demonstration to demand the separation of church and state in Argentina.
Vilma Ripoll, with the Socialist Workers Movement (MST), noted the popularity of the green “pańuelo” (handkerchief) as the pro-abortion symbol in the political and social debate over abortion and said that “whatever happens” in the country’s Senate in two weeks, the next battle will be that of “the orange handkerchief,” the color selected by various social groups to symbolize the struggle to ensure the separation of church and state.
“We’re a lay country. Only over many years did the (Catholic) Church manage to get us to sustain its structure,” Ripoll said, adding that the Church has become a “business” that takes advantage of “subsidies” for the clergy.
Just a few days before the Aug. 8 Senate vote on the pending abortion law to decriminalize the voluntary interruption of pregnancy, the MST called dozens of people out to carry signs bearing slogans such as “Church and State, separate issues” and “Let anyone who wants a priest pay for him.”
“We’re finishing up with abortion and kicking off (the battle over) the separation of church and state,” Ripoll said, after admitting that getting the Senate to pass the law will be more “complicated” than passing it in the lower house.
Just as preceded the approval of the law in the Chamber of Deputies, senators are debating the pros and cons of the measure.
Argentine society has split into two factions: those rallying behind the green handkerchief favoring the decriminalization of abortion and those adopting the blue handkerchief against the approval of the bill.
And orange handkerchiefs have also been in evidence since the start of the Senate debate.
“The unity between the Church and the state results in us paying 40 billion pesos ($1.455 billion) every year so that they have a private business, like private education, and on top of that they use the education of our kids to inculcate medieval ideas in them and get them mobilized against basic rights, like against women in this case,” said national MST leader Alejandro Bodart.
Bodart said that in the past the Church has tried to quash other historic laws in Argentina, such as the divorce law and the equal marriage law.
On June 13-14, thousands of people held a vigil in the streets near Congress and on the 14th celebrated the lower house’s approval of the pro-abortion measure.