Crime gangs are part of the social fabric of the remote Guerrero communities that cultivate drugs and their presence is accepted and welcomed by inhabitants, says the bishop of Chilpancingo-Chilapa.
Salvador Rangel Mendoza, bishop of the diocese of Chilpancingo-Chilapa, told the newspaper Reforma that he first approached criminal gangs after the lives of priests were threatened and has since held conversations with leaders of those groups, interceding on behalf of peace and tranquility.
They have responded by insisting they’re drug traffickers, not sicarios, or hired assassins, the bishop said. And citizens want to have them around.
“In other words, the people feel more protected by them than the authorities,” said Rangel Mendoza.
“What I’ve been saying is that authorities at different levels have left a power vacuum, a social action vacuum that has begun to be filled by groups of criminals, so to speak.”
Rangel said the gangs say what they want is the well-being of the people and security for all. “What I can say is that these groups complain about the state of neglect the people are left in. For this reason they have a degree of resentment towards authority.”
The bishop explained that the places where the gangs operate are characterized by their low levels of social development. In many villages in the sierra, he said, there are neither doctors nor roads.
“These are not the narcos from northern or central Mexico, I just call them farmers.”
The bishop says the various security operations that have been carried out in the different regions of Guerrero have not worked, and proof is in the fact that violence prevails.
Rangel also repeated a proposal he made a year ago that authorities engage in dialogue with criminals as a means to bring peace to Guerrero. He believes it hasn’t happened because the authorities do not want to shake up the status quo and lose the financial benefits it provides.
When the drug shipments go by, the bishop charged, the authorities close one eye and then the other. “I do not believe the government is so innocent . . . .”
Without naming names, Rangel stated that he has spoken with people from “three, four groups.” It is only in the region of Chilapa where the Catholic prelate has failed to establish ongoing communication with criminal groups and their leadership.
The bishop was asked if a security detail accompanies him to his meetings. The only people who go with him are nuns, he replied.