Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Narcos Attack and Extort the Clergy

Sunday, August 22, 2010 |

















“One day we found an iguana in the office. It had a paper tied to its tail that said: “Do not mess with us. That was the first time they threatened us," complained the priest Blas Alvarado, pastor of Tenosique, Tabasco, in southeastern Mexico,

Father Alvarado runs a migrant shelter that cares for undocumented Central American migrants journeying to the United States in search of economic opportunity. Church run shelters are vital to the safety of these migrants who are easy prey for criminals that kidnap them for ransom. Those unable to pay are usually murdered.

Father Alvarado is under constant threat now for his advocacy and for his demands that the police and the military stop the kidnappings.

Who is behind these threats?

"Los Zetas, government authorities, mafias that control the trafficking of people," Alvarado told and interviewer.
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In a news conference held on a Saturday in April 2009 in the city of Durango to denounce the state of insecurity and extortions and threats made against the priests of his diocese by the Sinaloa Cartel and La Familia Michoacana, Archbishop Hector Gonzalez Martinez utters those frank words that damage the credibility of the Calderon administration.

..."más adelante de Guanacevi, por ahí vive El Chapo, todos lo sabemos, menos la autoridad"...
...-¿No ha hecho denuncia?-, se le cuestionó. ...-"Todos estamos muy convencido de que no tiene mucha eficacia", respondió.
Further up from Guanacevi (in the rugged Sierra Madre mountains of northern Durango), El Chapo Guzman lives over there, we all know, except for the authorities.

Have you made a formal statement? He is asked. We are all convinced that would not be very effective, is the response.

The next day, Sunday, all the national newspapers carrying the interview are bought out in the state of Durango by unknown agents and the local media do not print the Archbishop’s answers.

Almost immediately the federal government threatens the Archbishop with arrest for refusing to submit a formal statement. (the PGR later backs off)

The PRI Governor of Durango, Ismael Hernandez Deras, refuses to accept any responsibility for the Archbishop’s safety.

Four days after the interview the bodies of two murdered army officers are found in Guanacevi. In the manner common with organized crime executions, a “narco” message is left with the bodies.

"Con 'El Chapo' nunca van a poder ni sacerdotes ni gobernantes” – Neither priests nor authorities will ever get El Chapo.

The archbishop is silenced. He refuses any further comment except to say his statement to the press was merely “urban legend” and should not be taken seriously.
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The Bishop of the Nuevo Laredo Diocese, Gustavo Rodriguez Vega, admits that many of his parish priests that are threatened by organized criminal gangs choose silence instead of formal complaints to authorities.

“The clergy is threatened because they speak out against injustices and defend the rights of the urban and rural poor and migrants who are constantly victimized and lured into joining the mafias” said the Bishop.

In Tamaulipas, priests are also threatened for preaching against the sale and consumption of drugs in their parishes.

The Epicopal Conference of Mexico (CEM) has solicited the federal government to guarantee the safety of the priests in Tamaulipas but this protection is not forthcoming due to the current level of violence.

The bishop mentioned that this violence is a part of daily life in most of the country now. “This is not a future risk, this is reality, now”

He added that the violence is growing because for those unemployed and living in extreme misery, the only available jobs are with organized crime.

The Bishop added “In Tamaulipas, evening Masses have been suspended by threats of possible attacks against the faithful and priests. The narcos have the upper hand. They do what they want."

In the “Frontera Chica”, the border region of Tamaulipas where violence is intense, the municipalities of Guerrero, Mier and Ciudad Aleman have been depopulated by as much as 70%, with the residents staying with relatives in the U.S. or moving to other cities further south in Mexico.

"Priests remain faithful to their parishes, despite the risk to their lives, but they can not survive economically," says the Bishop, where attendance at Sunday mass has dropped by as much as 90%.

In many parishes of the Frontera Chica, all masses have been suspended entirely.
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Criminal groups have stepped up extortion, assaults and threats against ministers and bishops of different faiths in at least 10 states, according to the Mexican Episcopal Conference (CEM) and the National Fellowship of Christian Churches and Evangelicals (Confraternice).

In Michoacan, for example, churches are forced to pay a protection fee to La Familia Michoacana for celebrations of patron saints.

The Diocese of Guadalajara states that Catholic priests face daily threats and extortion attempts. "Extortions have been higher, they no longer ask for 5,000 or 10,000 pesos but are now asking for 50,000 pesos monthly," said the spokesman.

Amidst these pressures, the evangelical church is suffering the worst. Many pastors have decided to pay a “cuota” (extortion fee) after their children were threatened. Some were reportedly killed after refusing to submit to extortions.

Arturo Farela, president of the Confraternice, said that in Ciudad Juárez over 100 pastors have been threatened, "There are ministers who are paying cuotas. Others have been threatened more than once. There is one who told me that they asked for 10,000 pesos a month."

According to Farela both Mexican and foreign pastors have been threatened in Ciudad Juarez “because they see us as a business and / or because we have implemented campaigns to rescue addicts and alcoholics."

On June 11, 2010, an armed group of about 30 gunmen burst into the drug rehab clinic "Christian Temple of Faith and Life” in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, owned by Confraternice, and killed 19 people.

A similar attack in the same city occurred in September 2009 in another Protestant drug rehab clinic, with a toll of 18 killed.

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4 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

Nothing is sacred anymore. May the Devil come for all narcos soon. I'm very sick of these bastards.

Abueal Chivis said...

Nothing is sacred that is correct. They forcefully order Drug rehab clinics closed. I know Los Zeta does and did so in my area. This happened apx 18 mos ago.. The clinic was operated by catholic priest subsequently the priest "retired".

I know the obvious reasons the cartel would oppose the clinics, but clearly it has to be far greater than what I can think of...I just do not get it...does anyone? I read that 5% of Mx population is now drug dependent. A huge increase

Anonymous said...

Many rehab programs are similar to the AA 12 steps which encourages members to admit their bad deeds and crimes caused by alcohol or drugs.This can go to far and when suppliers ,sicarios, locations,etc.are named in meetings the word gets out.Or a cartel might have a spy in the program. From there the violence occurs to silence some and be a warning to others.

J said...

In Juarez I know the massacres were because gang members from the Aztcas and Artist Assassins were in them, most of the low level gunmen are probably abusing meth and heroin. I can't say what caused the Zetas to close one, where you are, but that was the reason behind the massacres in Juarez. And, I suspect the motivations are not to discourage people from quitting drugs.

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