Pope Francis will be in Morelia, the capital of the state of Michoacan today speaking to citizens and young people who have lived in a country hit hard by drugs, drug smuggling, and trafficking by violent drug cartels. He begins his fourth day of his Apostolic Journey to Mexico.
Michoacan has been utterly vexed with drug violence. In February 2013, an armed uprising by vigilante groups began with the object of trying to rid the state of the Knights Templar, reported Breitbart News. Some of these vigilantes are allegedly supported by the Jalisco drug cartel. The violence continues in the region.
On December 28, 2015, Breitbart News reported that the bullet-ridden bodies of four people, including of “El Tisico” was found in the state. Carlos Rosalez Mendoza, 53, was a founder and leader of the La Familia Michoancana cartel, and the Knights Templar which was birthed from the remnants of La Familia.
On December 29, five headless bodies were found in two different locations in the Michoacan state. As reported by Breitbart News, letters were left with the decapitated corpses. Two of the bodies were found in a Morelia public square and their heads were on a sidewalk closeby. The letters were reported to have been signed with the initials of the Jalisco New Generation drug cartel. The gang, from the neighboring state of Jalisco, is in a turf battle with the Knights Templar cartel. Knights Templar has dominated Michoacan’s drug trafficking in recent years.
Breitbart Texas’ Sylvia Longmire reported in early December that the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) is one of the fastest growing—and most violent—criminal organizations in Mexico. The drug trafficking group got its start as the armed wing of the notorious Sinaloa Federation she writes, originating in roughly 2010 and operating almost exclusively in the Guadalajara area. According to InsightCrime.org, the CJNG arose after the 2010 death of Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, the Federation’s representative in Jalisco and this unleashed a fight for succession.
The federal government has had to respond to the violence in the area and deployed thousands of troops to Michoacan in May 2015. They have tried to curtail the lawlessness of the cartels but the violence has continued. In mid-December, three local police officers were executed within two days, reported Breitbart News.
The Pope elevated Morelia Archbishop Alberto Suarez Inda in Michoacan to a cardinal last year. Fox News reported that Suarez Inda, like Pope Francis, has called for pastors in the country to live with their congregants. A now very familiar phrase reported is live with the “smell of their sheep.” The statement by Pope Francis has been a directive for bishops to be with their people through life’s tough times, as well as the good.
Suarez Inda was reported to have been part of the clergy in Michoacan who prepared a report on drug violence last year. The cleric was reported to have said the account left Francis “very shocked and impressed.”
The Pope began his trip to Mexico late last week and news reports say he has taken the opportunity to scold the church leadership in the country for not being close to the people, being too close to the powerful, and reportedly has asked that they put aside their cozy lives and thinking of themselves as a form of royalty. Fox reported that Suarez Inda is aligned with Pope Francis in thinking that “pastors should not be bureaucrats and we bishops should not have the mentality or attitude of princes.”
On Saturday, the Pope was in Mexico City where he was reported to have admonished the church leadership for wanting to move up the ladder and seeking promotions but not staying close to the people they serve. He also encouraged them to be courageous in addressing the drug trade. In a seminary guestbook, he encouraged church leaders “to be pastors of God instead of ‘clerics of the state.’”
In 2013, Suarez Inda signed a letter with eight other bishops accusing government officials of “complicity, forced or willing,” with the criminal drug cartels. It also urged church leaders to “do whatever is in your power” to help their citizens who face and/or even personally experience, murder, kidnapping, extortion, and the other evils associated with drug cartels.
Lana Shadwick is a writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2