Pope Francis on Wednesday issued a scathing critique of capitalism on a trip to Mexico’s border with the United States, saying that God will hold accountable “slave drivers” who exploit workers.
“The flow of capital cannot decide the flow of people,” he said in Ciudad Juarez, a gritty industrial city next to El Paso, Texas where many international companies have factories that export goods to the United States.
In a speech to business leaders and labor representatives, Latin America’s first pope assailed the “prevailing mentality (that) advocates for the greatest possible profits, immediately and at any cost.”
On the last day of a six-day visit to Mexico, the Argentine pontiff decried “the exploitation of employees as if they were objects to be used and discarded,” saying the best investment business can make to help society is in people and families.
“God will hold the slave drivers of our days accountable,” he said.
The pope has in the past called money “the dung of the devil” and has decried what he calls the “evils” of unbridled capitalism, prompting criticism from U.S. business leaders.
Francis was to celebrate Mass later in the day only yards from the U.S. border where he was expected to strongly defend the rights of immigrants to the United States.
He has visited some of the most marginalized areas of Mexico, urging young people in the violence-ridden state of Morelia to avoid drug trafficking and taking a swipe at the country’s rich and corrupt.
A major manufacturing center, Ciudad Juarez has been badly hit by drug violence in recent years. It also an important crossing for Mexicans, Central Americans and Asians trying to reach the United States illegally.
Most in Ciudad Juarez live by modest means. Business leaders say about 70 percent of people in the city, a major low-cost manufacturing center, earn less than 210 pesos ($11) a day. The official minimum wage in Mexico is 73 pesos per day.
Francis’ focus on the plight of migrants who risk murder, rape and extortion on they head north, is at odds with the anti-immigrant rhetoric of candidates for the 2016 Republican U.S. presidential nomination.
Billionaire Donald Trump has surged ahead of his rivals with his message that Mexico is “killing” the United States with cheap labor, while sending over criminals and rapists. He has also promised to built a huge border wall.
Trump last week dubbed the pope “a very political person”, saying he believed the Mexican government had put him up to the border visit.
“To suggest that the pope is an instrument of the Mexican government, no. That is very strange indeed,” said Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, shortly before the pontiff arrived in Ciudad Juarez.
Later Wednesday, the pope will be driven to the fence that separates Mexico from the United States, and will celebrate Mass just 80 yards (73 meters) from the crossing.
Gloria Lejeune, 50, came from Arlington, Texas to attend the Mass. She crossed the border with a group of three women, all dressed in sun hats and Pope t-shirts and carrying beach towels.
Lejeune wore six rosaries around her neck.
“I’m going to get them all blessed,” she said while buying a yellow and white flag with the Pope’s face next to an image of Mexico’s patron saint, Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Francis leaves Ciudad Juarez bound for Rome later on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, it emerged a laser beam was pointed at his plane as he landed in Mexico City from Cuba last week, though there was no harm to those aboard.
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