A bishop in Guerrero — known for his willingness to engage with criminal organizations — is attempting to secure the release of five kidnapping victims.
Salvador Rangel Mendoza, bishop of the Chilapa-Chilpancingo diocese, said in an interview that he is trying to identify and make contact with a crime gang that kidnapped three men and a woman in Chilapa several weeks ago.
“… We’re trying to intervene for these four people from Chilapa and another person from Chilpancingo so that they are freed,” he said.
Rangel, who has met with criminal leaders and three years ago sought a Christmas truce between feuding cartels, said he was acting on the request of the victims’ families in the case of the missing Chilapa residents.
He said the Guerrero Attorney General’s Office is looking for the missing people but has failed to find them. The bishop said he was previously able to secure the release of one kidnapping victim thanks to contacts he has within one criminal group, which he didn’t name.
The four people from Chilapa were abducted by a different group, Rangel said.
“… We’re sending little messages to find out which group kidnapped them, and we’re looking for any clues,” he said, adding that whether they are still alive is unknown.
Chilapa, located about 60 kilometers east of the state capital Chilpancingo, has been plagued by violent crime in recent years. Rival gangs Los Ardillos and Los Rojos engaged in a turf war in the opium-poppy growing municipality for years. The former group currently controls Chilapa, but a cell of its rival recently returned to the municipality, Rangel said.
The bishop said that violence has increased in some Guerrero municipalities since the June 6 elections because crime groups are seeking to pressure incoming municipal officials. They want the officials to commit to giving them part of the municipal budget, he said.
New mayors will take office in all 81 Guerrero municipalities on October 1.
Rangel said that Iguala — where 43 teaching students were abducted in 2014 in one of Mexico’s most shocking recent cases of violence — is one municipality where violence has recently increased. There was a shootout between state police and criminals last Saturday, he said, adding that three or four crime groups are vying for control of the municipality.
The bishop said the National Guard should act with greater force against organized crime, which operates with virtual impunity in large parts of the country.
“I don’t understand why there is so much complacency, so much gentleness,” Rangel said.
With reports from Reforma