Church warns that southern Mexico is ‘torn by violence’

Bishop Rodrigo Aguilar Martínez Bishop Rodrigo Aguilar Martínez of Chiapas, Mexico, with a message of peace. | Credit: Parish Community of San Juan Bautista

Rodrigo Aguilar Martínez, the bishop of San Cristóbal de las Casas in the Mexican state of Chiapas, warned in a Sept. 23 letter posted on Facebook that the country’s south is “torn by violence” due to the confrontations between criminal gangs.

Sept. 23 videos that went viral on social media show a convoy of pickup trucks — presumably from the criminal organization known as the Sinaloa Cartel — driving through the streets of towns in Chiapas as hundreds of residents stood lining the street.

According to the local press, residents of the southern region of Mexico are forced to support or even join the ranks of organized crime, while clashes between drug trafficking cartels are affecting more than 200,000 inhabitants in the region.

As a result, Aguilar stated that “criminal gangs have taken over our territory and we find ourselves in a state of siege, under social psychosis with road blockades set up by drug gangs, which use civil society as a human barrier” putting the lives of citizens and their families at risk.

In the letter, the bishop charged that organized crime commits “kidnappings, and disappearances, makes threats, harasses people, takes natural resources, persecutes people and dispossesses their assets, the fruit of our work.”

The prelate pointed out that this situation has created food shortages, such as of basic grains and other goods, as well as a lack of medical care and medicines.

Aguilar charged that there is “social, political, and psychological pressure and control from different gangs such that the people take sides with one or another crime gang.”

The bishop blamed the authorities at all levels for “ignoring the complaints of civil society” and demanded that they “urgently” address the “cases of violence and insecurity that are destroying the lives of our people.”

Furthermore, he demanded that the authorities “immediately issue and execute the arrest warrants for the leaders of these crime gangs” and “restore social order without doing harm to civil society.”

At a Sept. 25 a press conference, the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, stated that the incidents of violence in Chiapas are “a matter very limited to one region” and that the videos that were posted are a strategy of his political opponents to make it seem that “drug trafficking dominates throughout Chiapas and throughout Mexico.”

The Diocese of Tapachula, located in the far south of Chiapas near the border with Guatemala, promised to help the residents of the region “as soon as the roads are open to reach them.” For now, Bishop Jaime Calderón Calderón expressed his closeness and encouragement “in these moments of suffering and scarcity” and lamented that “it’s always the children who suffer the most.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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