A Mexican bishop has convinced drug traffickers in the state of Guerrero to stop killing candidates ahead of their July 1st elections.
Bishop Salvador Rangel Mendoza tells reporters he brokered the truce after holding a meeting on Good Friday with cartel members following the assassinations of 11 political candidates - several in the town of Chilapa. His relationship with the criminals was made public this year, however he had reportedly opened a dialogue nearly two years ago when he intervened in the capture of a priest.
"Rangel was the one who established the first contact with a narco leader. One day, he told in an interview, a priest called him to ask him to intervene so they would not kill him.
The following week he went to the sierra to ask the capo not to kill the priest. Then he mediated between the criminal groups and, now, intervened to negotiate security for the candidates." -El Universal (translated)
After Rangel reportedly took a helicopter rented for him by a local community to thank a capo for restoring electricity and water to the town, he requested that the cartel stop murdering candidates. Cartel leadership reportedly agreed under the conditions that politicians don't cheat during elections by buying votes, and that they then fulfill their political promises "because after they come to power and forget about the people, and that's what bothers us."
Mendoza told a congregation of the agreement during Easter Sunday mass in the central market of Chilpancingo.
Bishop Rangel joined the Chilpancingo-Chilapa diocese in August 2015 after the previous bishiop left following the cartel assassinations of three priests, and an attempted kidnapping. Rangel's territory is some of the worst in Mexico in terms of cartel violence - with several competing factions engaging in bloody turf wars according to the Secretary of Security Public of the state.
Since arriving in Guerro, Rangel has been an open critic of the Mexican government's security strategy - and says that drug traffickers and politicians are actually allies, "even if they deny it in public."
"I know of several municipal presidencies that have been supported by drug trafficking" said Rangel. "All of Guerrero is in the hands of narcotics traffickers," Rangel said. "There's an official government and another (authority) that gives orders."
The bishop's anti-government comments have angered several members of the Guerrero government, who say that laws must be followed.
"There’s no place for doubt here. Laws must be respected and carried out," said Interior Minister Alfonso Navarrete Prida in response to the bishop’s actions. He acknowledged the spike in violence in Guerrero and said the government has identified the criminal groups responsible.
Relations between officials and the priesthood reached an all time low in February, after officials suggested that two assassinated priests were aligned with a rival cartel. The priests were killed in a February 5 ambush between the cities of Taxco and Iguala, after an armed group blocked their vehicle and opened fire on the passengers.
Bishop Rangel called the government's account of the priests "fictional," and said that they were musicians who performed in remote hamlets and "approached people," to evangelize through music.