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TEGUCIGALPA ( - The Latin American Bishops' Conference (CELAM) meeting in Honduras on Friday placed the primary blame for rising poverty and corruption on politicians in the region.

The bishops, meeting to discuss "sustainable human development, an agenda for the third millennium," issued a statement urging countries to rescue politics from a further degradation in ethics and morality. Government representatives and delegates of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) took part in the meeting, whose participants concluded that efforts against poverty were still insubstantial.

Archbishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez of San Salvador, El Salvador criticized the maquilas, export-processing zones which enjoy tax exemptions and are a major source of foreign investment for Latin American countries. "The maquilas abound in our countries, operating with people who are forbidden to think and are paid the least amount possible. We propose integral education which prepares people to think, criticize, and question reality to be able to change it," he said.

In addition to new initiatives for education, the bishops also called for the "rescue of ethical and moral values and solidarity," and the offsetting of losses caused by globalization and corrupt political systems. The bishops said that politics is the art of the common good, especially for the poor. But, they added, that objective had been lost in Latin America, where politics had plunged into a "distressing prostitution."

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