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Mexican Priests: Danger Persists, 2 Killed in Veracruz, Chapo’s Message

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December 4, 2013

The threatening calls reportedly came one after the other to Mexico’s main Catholic seminary.
Callers, claiming to be from one of the country’s feared drug cartels, offered an ominous warning: Pay up if you value the safety of your priests.
 
Cardinal Rivera gives mass at Santa Martha prison heavily guarded by a ring of police
“They called several times. They identified themselves as the Familia Michoacana, but who knows?” Cardinal Norberto Rivera, archbishop of Mexico City, revealed at a Mass this week. “I spoke with the authorities. We made the appropriate report. Because they wanted us to pay. Because if not, they would kill one of us. They wanted to extort 60,000 pesos ($4,600).”
 
The long outspoken, migrant rights activist priest Alejandro Solalinde of Oaxaca (Hermanos de el Camino Shelter)had to flee Mexico temporarily after numerous death threats.

Reports of extortion have become increasingly common as drug cartels expand their reach in Mexico. But public denouncements of such attempts are rare.

Rivera called on parishioners to report extortion to authorities, and he urged them not to pay.
His description Sunday of the extortion attempts and a statement denouncing drug violence give a glimpse into the problems faced by a Catholic Church often caught in the crossfire of warring cartels and government efforts to stop them.
In the country’s capital alone, more than 10 priests have been threatened with extortion, said the Reverend Hugo Valdemar Romero, a spokesman for the archdiocese.
“None of them have paid,” he told CNN. “Last year, two extortionists were arrested.”
It’s not uncommon for individual parishes to face extortion threats, he said. But the calls last month to the Seminary of the Archdiocese of Mexico marked the first time such a large church-run institution in the capital had been targeted, Romero said.
Mexico’s Catholic priests have long struggled with how to deal with spiraling drug violence and cartel culture.
In addition to widespread extortion attempts by gangs, church officials have said clergy have received threatening notes and telephone calls after sermons against drug use and trafficking.
In 1993, Cardinal Juan Posadas Ocampo was gunned down in the parking lot of an airport in Guadalajara, Mexico. Authorities said a drug gang had confused him with a rival trafficker, but some church leaders claimed he was targeted for denouncing drug trafficking.
In 2009, Hector Gonzalez, the archbishop of the northern state of Durango, raised fears of attacks on the clergy after he said that Mexico’s most wanted man, Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, lived in a Durango town and that “everybody knows it except the authorities.”
Days later, investigators found the bodies of two slain military lieutenants in mountains nearby, accompanied by a note: “Neither the government nor priests can handle El Chapo.”
Gonzalez quickly backed away from his comments, telling reporters who asked him about them, “I am deaf and dumb.”
This year, even as government officials have suggested that drug-related violence could be on the decline, church leaders have warned that priests and the congregations they serve remain at risk.
Various articles of a few other incidents regarding killings and threats against of priest below:

 
Migrants line up to receive supplies we brought to the Saltillo Shelter, a death threat came in the next day The following article is one I wrote in 2012 when the Saltillo threats occurred

Reinforcing security at the Casa del Migrante
by Chivis Martinez (2012)
 

For over a week death threats have been received at one of the migrant shelters in Saltillo. Death threats have been delivered against the managers of the shelter. Father Pedro Pantoja has also received death threats, but it has not been made clear by authorities who is issuing the threats or why.

Over one week ago I heard about the threats, and at that time I was told the threats were against the entire shelter and everyone in the shelter.  It now appears to be more specific than first thought.
Reports state:
Authorities announced that different state police forces are guarding Casa del Migrante, after the death threats they have received against several of its executives.
“We are investigating the death threats he received in recent days by Father Pedro Pantoja de la Casa del Migrante,” the Attorney General of the State (PGJE).
In a statement, the agency added that “The relevant inquiry PGJE started and is gathering evidence to identify the source of these threats..”
On Tuesday, Amnesty International (AI) and the Network of Civil Human Rights All Rights for All (Red TDT) called for the intervention of state authorities at the increasing threats of staff working at the shelter.
Shelters and Priests operating shelters are frequently under attack by cartels.  They oppose safe havens for economic migrants as migrants they are a valuable resource for criminal organizations. Aside from extortion, they are forced into criminal activities,  recruited into cartels, or exploited and used for other the drug criminal activities such as  the sex trade.
June 2012 Alejandro Solalinde Mexico’s most outspoken priest against cartels

Fr. Solalinde opened his modest shelter in 2007, 400 migrants sought refuge that first night.  As he became known, he became the target of cartels.

 

In January 2007,  a group of 18 undocumented immigrants,  mostly Guatemalans, were kidnapped in Ixtepec. A hundred migrants, outraged, surrounded the house where they were held  captive. The corrupt municipal police arrived, but not to rescue the hostages, but to disperse  the migrants who were assaulted with tear gas. Several of them were arrested, including the priest Solalinde, the kidnappers were not arrested. “The greatest challenge that I must overcome is the intimidation, the harassment, and the constant lack of respect from people who do not want my work helping migrants to succeed. Many local authorities, gangs, and drug traffickers would love to free themselves from the defenders of human rights.”….
OAXACA, Mexico When the Rev. Alejandro Solalinde chose to dedicate himself seven years ago to helping Central and South American migrants traveling to the United States, he was an obscure country priest and the migrants moved in the shadows. . Since then, both Father Solalinde and the plight of the people he serves have emerged into a very public light. The crimes the migrants face — extortion, rape, kidnapping and murder — have become so brazen and brutal that Mexicans can no longer ignore them. As the horrors have multiplied, Father Solalinde’s demands for the migrants’ protection have begun to resonate.

His insistence that the authorities pursue the criminals preying on migrants and his accusations that the police and politicians protect and even aid the gangs have also turned him into a target.

In May, after receiving six death threats in two months, he decided to take precautions. He left Mexico, traveled through North America and Europe, and then spent a few weeks resting in the Mexican city of Guadalajara. Father Solalinde, 67, did not stay away for long, though. He returned this week to his beloved state of Oaxaca, where he runs a shelter in Ciudad Ixtepec, a sweltering railroad town where migrants wait to scramble atop cargo trains that will take them on the next leg of their wearying trip to the United States.

More migrants will be arriving, he said, pushed by poverty and violence at home. A long-suspended train service directly from the Guatemalan border is being renewed. “That means the merchandise is coming, the captive customers,” …..read full article here

January 2012: Father Genaro Díaz of the parish of the Immaculate Conception, located in Atizapán, Mexico, was killed Saturday morning in the presbytery. Bishop Héctor Luis Morales Sánchez of the Diocese of Nezahualcóyotl lamented the priest’s death at the hands of criminal gangs. November 29, 2013 A Mexican Roman Catholic diocese says a parish priest and his vicar have been murdered in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz. The diocese of Tuxpan said in a statement that the head of Ixhuatlan de Madero parish, Rev. Hipolito Villalobos, and vicar Rev. Nicolas De la Cruz were found dead Friday. The church said the priests were killed in the parish but did not provide any more details. The Archdiocese of Xalapa that has jurisdiction over the parish says they are co-operating with authorities. Officials say four suspects have been detained for questioning…read full article here

A group of Mexico’s Catholic bishops have said they plan to discuss the violence with Pope Francis during a visit to the Vatican next year.

For most of his 70 years, Hesiquio Trevizo has been a man of good will, preaching the word of God. These days, the Roman Catholic priest is a self-described capitan de la guerra — a war veteran. That he should feel so within the confines of the sanctuary tells all about the violence and pervasive fear that have gripped the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
“None of us are entirely safe from organized crime. Not even priests,” Trevizo says.
He laughs, awkwardly. Trepidation leaks out with every word. Perhaps the most important aspect of his job as a priest makes him a potential target for organized crime. Criminals know that grisly details of violence have spilled out in the privacy of the confessional, and crime bosses would rather not have those details repeated or remembered……..read full article here and an article about another of the 120 priests in Juarez read that article here
2009: The killing last weekend of a Catholic priest and two seminary students in southwest Mexico marked the first time that drug cartel hit men have purposefully targeted a clergyman, said Manuel Corral, public relations secretary for Mexico’s Council of Bishops.

The Rev. Habacuc Hernandez Benitez, 39, was gunned down as he traveled in a vehicle in the town of Arcelia in the state of Guerrero, together with two seminary students, Eduardo Oregon Benitez, 19, and Silvestre Gonzalez Cambron, 21.

“In this case the drug traffickers followed them and ambushed them,” said Corral, who declined to name which cartel is suspected behind the incident…read full article here

CNN Mexico-Fox Latino-ElDiario-El Paso Times

About Doc

Spreading the word about the dangers of methamphetamine.

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