Tuesday, April 23, 2024

‘We’re going to be governed by narcos,’ warns outspoken Guerrero bishop

A prominent Catholic bishop has warned that Guerrero is at risk of being governed by organized crime.

“I believe a time is coming in which we’re going to be governed not by politicians but by narcos,” Salvador Rangel, bishop of the Chilapa-Chilpancingo diocese, said during a homily he delivered in Chilpancingo on Tuesday during a service attended by the family of a man kidnapped three weeks ago.

He called on the federal government to do more to combat violence in Guerrero, which was the 10th most violent state in Mexico in the first five months of 2020.

“It’s not fair, we have the right to peace and tranquility,” said Rangel, who is known for his willingness to engage with criminal organizations and revealed earlier this week that he is attempting to secure the release of five kidnapping victims.

“… It’s the obligation of the government to protect us, but I say to them in good conscience that there is a lot of corruption; there are a lot of tricks, and certain groups and certain interests are protected,” the bishop said.

Residents of San Miguel Totolapan, displaced by narcos, in shelter
Displaced residents of San Miguel Totolapan were sheltered in a local government sports building after violence forced them to leave their homes.

In Guerrero’s Tierra Caliente region, candidates backed by organized crime dominated the June 6 elections, which virtually ensures that incoming elected officials such as mayors will allow the crime groups that supported them to operate with high levels of impunity in the coming years.

There are also serious crime and violence problems in other parts of the state such as Acapulco, Chilpancingo, Iguala and Chilapa.

In a mountain region inland from the Pacific coast resort city of Zihuatanejo, residents of at least 10 communities have been forced to flee due to the incursion of a criminal group called Los Cornudos.

About 300 people belonging to some 70 families have left communities such as El Mamey, Arroyo Seco, La Vainilla and La Soledad over the past three months as members of the gang committed armed attacks, stole cattle and other farm animals, extorted residents and kidnapped women.

Displaced residents say they have asked for help from federal and state authorities but received no response.

“Now we’re living in the hills, under tarps tied to sticks,” one man told the newspaper El Universal, adding that Los Cornudos were demanding extortion payments of up to 15,000 pesos (US $750) a month per family.

Families near Zihuatanejo fleeing narco violence
Families that fled extortion and violence in an area inland from Zihuatanejo are living under tarps in an encampment, hiding from their aggressors.

“They even asked old people for money; the little they had, they took. … We had to leave, there is nobody in those towns now, they’re ghost towns; only the bullet holes are left,” he said.

Other displaced residents who spoke to the newspaper Milenio said they are sleeping in caves in the mountains.

“Our houses are empty; there are houses that were shot — they’ve stolen our animals,” they said.

Among the displaced are children, who are unable to continue with their studies. The residents are calling for a military base to be established in the Zihuatanejo Sierra area so that soldiers have a permanent presence there and the gang members are driven out.

Los Cornudos have been harassing residents of the Zihuatanejo Sierra region for some three years, but their presence in the area increased earlier this year.

The gang is made up of some 50 armed men led by Flavio Delgado Cruz and his son Marcos Delgado Hernández, according to displaced residents.

The group was initially involved in illegal logging in the Zihuatanejo Sierra region before moving into other criminal activities such as extortion and cattle theft.

With reports from Proceso, Milenio and El Universal 

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