Bishops Take Drug Cartel Matters Into Their Own Hands

Catholic clergy is trying to negotiate for peace, says Mexican government isn't doing its job
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 16, 2024 3:07 PM CST
Bishops: We've Been Lobbying for Peace With Drug Cartels
People walk near a cathedral in Chilpancingo, Mexico, on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Alejandrino Gonzalez)

Four Roman Catholic bishops met with Mexican drug cartel bosses in a bid to negotiate a possible peace accord, and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Thursday he approves of such talks. The revelation by the bishop of Chilpancingo-Chilapa, Jose de Jesus Gonzalez Hernandez, illustrates the extent to which the government's policy of not confronting the cartels has left citizens to work out their own peace deals with the gangs. Lopez Obrador conceded it wasn't the first time church leaders had held such talks, and that they've done so before in the neighboring state of Michoacan and elsewhere, per the AP.

"Priests and pastors and members of all the churches have participated," Lopez Obrador said after the negotiations were revealed. "I think it is very good." His government has avoided direct confrontation with the cartels, allowing them to essentially take control of a dozen or more midsize cities, where the prices of most products are higher because they include a "tax" charged by the cartels. Many average Mexicans have quietly agreed to pay protection payments to drug cartels for fear of being attacked or having their homes or businesses burned.

The bishop said the most recent talks failed because the cartels and drug gangs didn't want to stop fighting over territory in the Pacific coast state of Guerrero. Those turf battles have shut down transportation and led to dozens of killings in recent months. "They asked for a truce, but with conditions," González Hernández said of the talks, held a few weeks ago. "But these conditions were not agreeable to one of the participants." Asked by local reporters what those conditions were, the bishop answered "territories."

(More Mexico stories.)

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