BUENOS AIRES – One in every four people in Argentina is poor, the country’s Catholic hierarchy said on Friday, days after President Cristina Fernandez pointed to a poverty rate of under 5 percent.
Santa Fe Archbishop Jose Maria Arancedo, who is chairman of the bishops conference, said in radio interviews that the most recent survey by the Argentine Catholic University, showing a poverty rate of 27.5 percent, is “accurate.”
He declined, however, to contest Fernandez’s comments earlier this week in Rome at an event where the UN Food and Agriculture Organization recognized Argentina for its efforts against hunger.
Addressing the FAO gathering, the president said fewer than 5 percent of Argentines were living below the poverty line.
“The poor person is a human being and that makes poverty an evangelical issue,” Arancedo said. “Arguing about numbers and details is to distance ourselves from the person in need.”
The Argentine government last published official figures about poverty 18 months ago, when the much-criticized Institute for Statistics and Census estimated the rate at 4.7 percent.
“We need the statistics and producing objective numbers must be a task treated with respect because they are for everyone and serve to plan a country,” Arancedo said.