Crime bosses in northern Jalisco only allow patron saints’ festivals to go ahead if parish priests agree to give them half the proceeds, according to the archbishop of Guadalajara.
“In order to celebrate the patronal festival – the town fair in other words – all the parishes in the area have to obtain the permission of the plaza chief. The plaza chief authorizes the priest to hold the patronal festival but he has to … [hand over] 50% of the festival revenue,” Cardinal José Francisco Robles Ortega said.
The archbishop, a cardinal since 2007, also revealed that he was stopped and interrogated by criminals last week.
“I went to the north of the state, to the border area with Zacatecas precisely, and I was stoped at two roadblocks, and they’re obviously organized crime roadblocks,” Robles said. “They demand you say where you’re coming from, where you’re going, what your job is, what you’re doing,” he said.
Robles noted that Zacatecas Bishop Sigifredo Noriega Barceló had the same experience while in northern Jalisco last week. While such occurrences are common in that part of Jalisco – the home state of the powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) – they are not incidents “we should grow accustomed to,” the archbishop said.
Noriega told reporters he was stopped by armed men last Thursday while on his way to visit communities in Jalisco that are part of his diocese.
“We were going from Huejuquilla to Tenzompa,” he said. “… What struck me was that it wasn’t the National Guard or the army [who stopped us]. They were people from one of the crime groups,” Noriega said.
He added that it was the first time he had encountered an organized crime checkpoint, an experience that frightened him.
“Of course fear is present. We take the [safety] measures that everyone takes [but] there’s no special protection [for bishops],” Noriega said, speaking just days after two priests were murdered in the Sierra Tarahumara region of Chihuahua.
His daunting experience occurred in the municipality of Huejuquilla El Alto – where eight state police officers were detained by armed civilians last November – while the organized crime roadblocks Robles encountered were in Totatiche and Villa Guerrero. All three municipalities border Zacatecas, one of Mexico’s most violent states.
“What I say is why?” said the cardinal. “With what authority does an organized crime group block you, stop you and investigate you?”
Echoing a call from the Jalisco State Human Rights Commission (CEDHJ), Robles urged authorities to provide greater security to the residents of northern Jalisco. The CEDJH last week called on all three levels of government to ramp up security due to the presence of rival criminal groups, namely the CJNG and the Sinaloa Cartel.