Argentina's Congress Skipped Pope Francis's First Address to Honor Hugo Chavez

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The Argentine Chamber of Deputies got into a little scuffle on Wednesday afternoon after Jorge Mario Bergoglio was named Pope Francis. Weird, right? You'd think they'd be celebrating.

But alas, as the new pope prepared to deliver his first ever address, the lower house of Argentina's National Congress was holding a ceremony to honor Hugo Chávez. Foreign Policy's Uri Friedman flagged the local coverage of the new pope, specifically a piece in Clarín reporting that the right-leaning opposition wanted to take a brief recess to watch Francis's first address. The opposition then called the left-leaning majority Front for Victory "resentful [and] resentful" when it refused to halt the preplanned ceremony. There was a heated argument. Eventually, the majority won, and the ceremony continued.

Depending on your leanings, it's tough to pick sides here. On one hand, Pope Francis is a pretty big deal not only for Argentina but for all of Latin America and arguably the world. He's the first non-European pope and, as such, an unexpected choice for the College of Cardinals. On the other hand — and it almost goes without saying — Hugo Chávez's death was also a huge deal for Latin America. And whether you like the guy or not, it's easy to understand how some people might be angry about interrupting his memorial ceremony. It's a little disrespectful, even if it is the pope's fault. Furthermore, that speech was obviously recorded. 

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In a way, this could be a sign of things to come. As The Washington Post's Max Fischer explains, Argentina is not necessarily unified behind the Catholic church. "The Catholic church, and to a lesser extent Bergoglio himself, were perceived in Argentina as sympathetic to the country's right-wing military junta, which ruled in the 1970s," said Fischer of the scuffle. 

So let's get this straight. Argentina's Congress got in a fight over a guy that once sympathized with an authoritarian regime in order to hold a ceremony for another guy who was in charge of an authoritarian regime? Latin America is weird, sometimes.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.