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Mexico City Archdiocese: President endangers economy by raising taxes
Catholic News Service

MEXICO CITY — The Archdiocese of Mexico City has criticized President Enrique Pena Nieto's economic reforms, saying he was endangering the economy by raising taxes.

"Everyone has been punished with tax increases ... diminishing their economic capacities and subjecting them to a series of complicated fiscal controls," said the archdiocesan newsletter, Desde la Fe. The reform raised taxes on individuals, eliminated deductions -- including some benefitting the church -- and even included a levy on soda and sugary drinks.

"Beyond the official declarations and the government's insulting public acts ... is the reality: disappointing expectations of growth for 2014 of less than 3 percent," said an editorial in the newsletter, published June 8.

Pena Nieto has promoted reforms as a way to move Mexico out of economic stagnation, but the editorial is indicative of sharp edges emerging in relations between the president and Mexico's bishops, who issued an April 30 letter questioning his policies in areas such as education, the economy and energy.

Pena Nieto visited the Vatican and met with Pope Francis June 7. Some church observers saw the trip as an opportunity for the president to persuade Pope Francis about his intentions and pressure him to have his bishops back off.

"He doesn't want any sources of conflict or opposition," said Bernardo Barranco, a longtime church observer in Mexico. "He perceives that the bishops' conference could be an actor that opposes his reforms so he's gone to the Vatican to talk with the hierarchy ... so that the bishops are more complacent."

Pena Nieto said he spoke to the pope about reforms, along with issues such as religious freedom in Mexico, migration and a "very encouraging" decrease in insecurity.

"I shared with him all of the agenda of transformative reforms and structural changes that Mexico has been experiencing, which have as their central objective assuring that Mexican can grow economically in a sustained way," he told reporters June 8.

Barranco said trips to the Vatican in an effort to win support for a domestic agenda are not without precedent. Former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari sought church support for an agenda of privatizations and free trade 25 years ago.

Pena Nieto also invited the pope to visit Mexico and said the pope agreed, in principle, to such a visit.

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