29 September 2009

Mexican bishops look to Colombians for help fighting drug violence


Mexican bishops look to Colombians for help fighting drug violence

By David Agren
Catholic News Service

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- At a press conference earlier this year, Archbishop Hector Gonzalez Martinez of Durango had planned to denounce extortion attempts against priests in his archdiocese. He instead stunned reporters -- and the whole country -- by announcing that cartel kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Mexico's most-wanted man, was residing in a remote corner of Durango state. Even more stunning, he insisted, "Everyone knows it, except the authorities."

His candor generated nationwide headlines and a warning from presumed associates of Guzman, who dumped two bodies along with a note that advised, "No government, no priest can stand against El Chapo."

Archbishop Gonzalez, the subject of intense media scrutiny, would later respond to reporters' questions with the words, "I'm deaf and dumb."

The archbishop's latter words describe the posture of many Mexicans and church leaders when it comes to denouncing organized crime and addressing a wave of violence that has claimed more than 13,500 lives since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and sent the army to suppress Mexico's drug cartels.

But that posture may be changing for Mexican Catholics. The social ministry secretariat of the Mexican bishops' conference is preparing a comprehensive report on violence in Mexico that is expected to provide both a diagnosis and an action plan for addressing the problem.

None of the report's authors wished to comment on their findings before its November publication, but the issue of organized crime has been a delicate one for the church. Equally delicate is the peril of wading into the public policy arena in a country with a history of contentious church-state relations and the risks of denouncing powerful drug cartels that act as benefactors and de facto authorities in many isolated parts of Mexico.

"They (church officials) would like to avoid confrontations with the government -- and also avoid confrontations with the narcotic traffickers," said Victor Ramos Cortes, religious studies professor at the University of Guadalajara.

Complete article posted at Catholic News Service, here.

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