The San Francisco Javier Parish in Urique, where two Jesuit priests and a local tour guide were murdered. Photo: Google

By MARK LORENZANA

Jesuit university rectors in Mexico warned on Thursday, June 23, that the country is experiencing a failed state and a security crisis, and called on citizens to pressure the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) to put an end to the violence.

During the annual meeting of the Jesuit University System (SUJ) — a network of private universities that belong to the Mexican Province of the Society of Jesus — the academics lamented the murder of Jesuit priests Javier Campos Morales and Joaquín César Mora Salazar, and tourist guide Pedro Palma, who were gunned down inside a church on Monday, June 20, in the municipality of Urique, in the northern state of Chihuahua. The bodies of the three were located by police late Wednesday.

A manhunt for the alleged mastermind of the killings, José Noriel Portillo, alias “El Chueco,” is still ongoing, although his cousin César Iván and another suspect have been apprehended on Thursday, June 23, by elements of the Chihuahua police and the Mexican National Guard in Cuiteco, Urique. Noriel Portillo is linked to the criminal group Los Salazar, which is affiliated with the Sinaloa Cartel.

“When the state does not have territorial control and allows private armed groups to control it, we call that a failed state,” said Juan Luis Hernández Avendaño, rector of the Universidad Iberoamericana of Torreón, a Jesuit-run university in the Mexican state of Coahuila.

“For many years, neighborhoods and towns have been controlled by the cartels, and the state has been absent. The people of Mexico are alone, abandoned. We are subject to the law of kidnapping, extortion and murder because the federal and local governments have no interest in protecting us.”

Hernández Avendaño said the fact that the bodies of the priests were taken “is a message that drug traffickers can do whatever they want, and we cannot allow that to continue.”

Alexander Paul Zatyrka Pacheco, rector of the ITESO Universidad Jesuita de Guadalajara, said that given the poor response from all levels of government to the ongoing violence and the systematic denial of insecurity in the country, Mexicans must pressure authorities to act.

“It is evident that people in government will continue to turn a blind eye to what is happening,” Zatyrka Pacheco said. “There should be enough pressure from society. We should not wait for these politicians to take their time and we should demand immediate action.”

Luis Alfonso González, rector of the Iberoamericana of León in Guanajuato, said that the murders happened “within the framework of intense, but normalized, violence that harms Mexican society on a daily basis, and highlights the ineffectiveness of the state’s security policy at all levels.”

Francisco Morfín Otero — director of the Ayuuk Intercultural Higher Institute (ISIA) in the municipality of San Juan Cotzocón, Oaxaca — believes that in the indigenous communities of Oaxaca, “murders are not an isolated act, but a common denominator” and that “it is terror, fear, isolation and death that have been established in various indigenous communities of the country.”

On behalf of all the Jesuit universities in Mexico, Luis Arriaga Valenzuela, rector of the Iberoamericana in Mexico City, demanded that Mexican federal and local authorities fulfill their obligation to guarantee truth and justice.

For his part, Jesuit priest Javier Ávila, who also serves in the San Francisco Javier Parish in Urique — and who gave more details about the murder of his colleagues —  believes that “hugs are no longer enough for so many bullets.” Ávila was referencing López Obrador’s controversial “hugs-not-bullets” approach to fighting crime in Mexico.

“Hugs are useless and do not help achieve peace for Mexicans,” Ávila said.

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