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Deliver us from evil, but not the Sinaola Cartel?

22 April 2009

I honestly don’t know what to make of this situation.

Even in the “reliably leftist” (and in Mexico, that means anti-clerical) media has been all over the story of threats against rural priests who preach on the sinfulness of narcotics trafficking, or — in the course of their pastoral duties — take a more proactive approach, helping farmers and others counter threats from local gangsters, much as the best of Colonial rural clerics protected their flock from brutal Spanish authorities.  The PRD  — given the severity of the threat — has suggested that priests receive federal protection.

Last week, the Archbishop of Durango, Héctor González Martínez, publically said that “Everyone knows where [#1 on the narco hit parade] Chapo Guzman is… except for the authorities.”  His Eminence then specified the town.

However, when asked by the Federal Prosecutor to come in for an interview, González said, “I am deaf and dumb.”  He further denied that he, or priests in his diocese, are under any threat.

The Mexican Bishops Conference, this week in Mexico City, issued a statement rejecting the idea of special protection, arguing that “all citizens must be protected, and priests are citizens, too.  It is the Federal Government’s responsibility to protect everyone.”

While Renato Ascencio, Bishop of Ciudad Juarez, confessed (if that’s the right word) that one of his priests had to flee to Canada because of death threats, and Salvador Rangel, the new bishop of Huejuetla, Michoacán said a few priests have received threatening telephone calls, others were only willing to admit that preists — like other citizens — sometimes receive threats.

Most of the hierarchy seems to be taking the same line as Emilio Berlié, Archbishop of Yucatan, who claims narcotics traffickers “respect religious men and women, because we represent God.”


A couple of thoughts.

1.  The bishops are, of course, correct, in stating that all citizens should expect their government to protect them, but there’s more to this than that.  Priests (and nuns… and ministers and rabbis and imams and gurus and lamas… all clergy) are not “normal” citizens.  There may be something unfair about clerical restrictions (mostly having to do with inheritance laws) these restrictions are mostly on the churches as organizations.  Clerics — as representatives of their denomination — cannot take a political stance, and religious facilities cannot be used for political purposes.  Given the overwhelming power of the Roman Catholic Church compared to other denominations, when the Bishops speak of clerical rights for citizens, they are usually demanding the right to use their power to shape public opinion.  If this is true, it’s a smart (but … forgive me… devious) move to demand equal citizenship rights for the clergy.

2.  PAN is, and always has been, the “Catholic Party”.  The “piety wing” of the party can, in many ways, be compared to “Christian Conservative” movements within the U.S. Republican Party, but Mexico and the U.S. are very different countries.  Anti-clericialism (or, rather, limiting the power of the Roman Catholic Church) is what made Benito Juarez a hero — and almost a saint — to Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and other religious minorities.  Non-Catholic religious voters tend to back the left.  PRD is, and always will be, the anti-PAN, which, by extension, means it receives support from the non-Catholic minority voters.  The Bishops are not willing to turn the other cheek to the PRD.  Whatever PRD proposes, the Bishops reject.  And vice-versa.

3.  There is a growing rumor in Mexico — mostly limited so far to chismosos and comments on internet sites — that the Sinaloa Cartel is in bed with PAN.  What’s pointed to as evidence is that Chapo Guzman managed, very easily, to escape prison soon after Vicente Fox was elected President, and that the “war on drugs” has been a war on “some narcos”… the Beltran-Leyas, the Gulf Cartel and la Familia… not much on the Sinaloa Cartel.  Conspiracy buffs also point out that Chapo Guzman’s alleged fortune is somewhere, but there seems to be almost no interest in the Federal Government into finding those assets — which have to be invested somewhere.  The conspiracy theorists also notice that PAN claims of “naroc influence” in the other parties revolve around every gang BUT Chapo’s.

Adding to the PAN-Sinaola rumors is something interesting that Jason Dormady at “Secret Reflections” noticed.  Jason, who teaches Latin American and Mexican history at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas keeps a sharp eye on Mexican religious trends.  He noticed that the recent anti-Santa Muerte “pogram” ignores another much better known alleged “narco-santo:

Santa Muerte appears to have upset a few folks in the Calderon admin…and I have to wonder if it doesn’t have to do with more than narcotics.

1) PAN Catholicism at the leadership level is NOT the folk Catholicism and syncretic Baroque worship of the Santa Muerte followers. Do we have some lingering Sinarquista influence among the PANistas? I’d say that is not a hard stretch.

2) Drug cartels also have leaders that give deep devotion to border saint Jesus Malverde… is the PAN going after him? I haven’t heard that they are…if they are, write in and let me know. If they aren’t, it seems to me that they may not be because Malverde is a Northern santo and to go after him would REALLY unsettle some northern PANistas. Then again, Malverde is also more popular amongst those crossing the border, unlike Santa Muerte who has deep followers in DF.

In other words, Santa Muerte followers tend to NOT be PAN supporters, but the Sinaloa Cartel (and PAN-controlled area voters) are likely devotees of Jesus Malverde.

And, when it comes to Chapo, the Archbishop — like Sergeant Schultz — sees nothink.

For what it’s worth, I know that conspiracy theories and talks of cabals are commonplace in Mexico, and only sometimes true.  And I recognize that politics in Latin America is a contact sport.  With Congressional elections coming up you expect politicos to spread the muck pretty thick.   But, some conspiracies turn out to be true, and sometimes the mud sticks.

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