Mexican church officials call for change to stop crime, corruption

MEXICO CITY – Catholic Church officials in Mexico have called for changes in public attitudes toward crime and corruption as well as the tactics being employed in the Mexican government’s war on narcotics-trafficking cartels.

“The situation in our country is increasingly more worrying and the immediate future seems more bleak and desolate,” said a Sept. 28 editorial in Desde la Fe, a publication of the Archdiocese of Mexico City. “It’s increasingly clear that a direct confrontation through the armed forces and different policing unions will not be enough.

“This struggle must be taken to the following level: the purification of the police and politics and business,” it added.

The call came amid recent reports of gruesome mass murders: A dozen bound and gagged bodies were dumped next to a Tijuana school Sept. 29 while earlier in September, 24 men – believed to be construction workers – were found executed near Mexico City.

The Mexico City newspaper El Universal put the number of deaths attributed to organized crime during the first nine months of 2008 at 3,391 nationwide; 152 of the deceased were deemed to have been innocent bystanders and 40 were children.

In mid-September, a pair of grenades ripped through independence celebrations in Michoacan state, claiming eight lives and injuring more than 100. The attacks have been blamed on a trio of Zetas, soldiers turned organized-crime hit men.

In the meantime, Mexican President Felipe Calderon had unveiled proposals for overhauling public security laws that make the federal police more professional and disciplined. Calderon also announced he would send more soldiers to Michoacan state.

Some Catholic officials, however, suggested that the government try other options to lessen the temptation of turning to crime.

In a Sept. 29 statement, the Mexican bishops’ conference lauded the government proposals for stiffening laws for battling organized crime, saying, “We don’t doubt that the struggle against organized crime is a Titanic task, nor do we doubt the efforts that are being made to combat it.”

But the bishops added, “Narcotics trafficking exists because this pays and it pays well.”

It “exists because men and women that today are enrolled in its ranks didn’t find in their country a better option for making a living than this,” they said.

Some in the church also suggested that a moral renewal was needed to stop the wave of crime sweeping over the nation.

Archbishop Jose Chavez Botello and Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Campos Contreras of Oaxaca said in a Sept. 28 statement that criminal activity was flourishing, in part, because so many turn a blind eye to small acts of petty corruption like paying off traffic cops and public officials, while those with power and influence long have manipulated “ambiguous laws … (as) it suits them.”

“We have been accustomed to getting favors based on influences, bribes, pressures or blackmail, with the excuse that it’s the only form of getting things done in this country,” they said. “In this manner we’re becoming accustomed to being a country in which illegality, deception and the sum of corrupt acts feeds impunity.”

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.