Priests Back Mexico Vigilantes Battling Drug Cartels

Image: Priests Back Mexico Vigilantes Battling Drug Cartels A member of the community police in the Mexican village of Xaltianguis.

Monday, 25 Nov 2013 04:55 AM

By Joel Himelfarb

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Frustrated by what they regard as a lack of action by the Mexican government, a growing number of priests are refusing to discourage parishioners from arming themselves against drug gangs many Mexicans say are making life unbearable, USA Today reported.
 
In a town 300 miles west of Mexico City called Tierra Caliente (“Hot Earth”), Catholic Bishop Miguel Patiño Velázquez likens drug gangs to cancer and doesn’t try to talk parishioners out of taking up arms to defend their communities
 
Patiño denounced the local security situation in a public letter last month attacking the drug gangs and what he regards as an inadequate response by local police and Mexico City, according to USA Today.
 
Patino said the national government has left his parishioners at the mercy of thugs who manufacture narcotics and extort money from local residents. Local officials and police are corrupt, he claims, making it essential that local residents arm themselves for their own protection. Local priests have received death threats from the gangs.
 
Officials in the Mexican government headed by President Enrique Peña Nieto disagree with claims by Patino and others that violence is on the rise, claiming recently that, a year into his presidency, homicides have fallen by 18 percent — even while admitting that there has also been a 35 percent increase in kidnappings.
 
The Mexican government also notes the arrests this year of several major cartel leaders. But some outside analysts assert that the government is playing games with the statistics and that the country has made relatively little progress in fighting gang violence. 
 
One skeptic is Father Andres Larios, who says he won’t hesitate to continue helping people fight back against the gangs.
 
The criminals, he said, “have taken their money, raped their women, done whatever they want.”
 
"This is a savage place," he added.
 
The BBC reported that earlier this month, Ygnacio Lopez Mendoza, mayor of Santa Ana Maya, a town in the Western state of Michoacan, was killed after taking a stand against drug gangs.
 
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