As Mexican society continues to be in upheaval due to the missing 43 students, a new victim highlights how no one, regardless of their occupation, is safe from violence in the country. The body of Father Gregorio López Gorostieta, a Catholic priest, was found this past Christmas, out of all days, four days after he disappeared.
In spite of the arrest of high-profile cartel leaders violence continues to be rampant, and the country ends 2014 with the sad reminder that neither student uniforms nor clerical clothing are effective deterrents against narco violence.
Father López Gorostieta, also known as El Padre Goyo was kidnapped on Sunday, December 21, from the La Anunciación seminary, where he taught. The facility is located in Ciudad Altamirano, in Guerrero (south of Mexico), the same state where 43 students went missing and are generally presumed dead (the remains of one have been identified).
It’s known that Father López Gorostieta arrived to the seminar around 11:30 on Sunday night after celebrating mass and helping with a communal party to collect donations for the seminary. Unknown individuals then took the priest from La Anunciación, forced him into his van and drove away. His body was found on Christmas day.
It’s believed that the Guerreros Unidos cartel, which operates in the area, may be behind this heinous act. Father Gregorio López Jerónimo, who manages the church in Apatzingán, also in Guerrero, has declared that López Gorostieta was murdered because he spoke out against this particular cartel, which is believed of having abducted the aforementioned 43 students.
The murder of yet another priest has caused the Catholic Church in Mexico to protest and demand government action. In a press release, the countrys bishops promptly stated, Enough! We do not want more blood. We do not want more deaths. We do not more disappeared.
While well intentioned, this statement will certainly not bring about an end to violence. Even more, the aforementioned Father López Jerónimo declared that the leaders of the Mexican church must take more decisive actions, as they have been prudent rather than brave when it comes to openly critiquing the murder of Father Goyo.
This is not the sole case this year of a murdered priest in Guerrero. This past September, the body of Father José Ascención Acuña Osorio, the priest at the San Miguel Totolapan church, was found floating in the Balsas River. He was kidnapped on the afternoon of September 21 by two unknown individuals who forced him into a taxi.
Authorities declared that the motive for the kidnapping was not robbery as the body had signs of torture, but it is unclear who was responsible.
Furthermore, foreign priests have also been targeted: the body of the Ugandan Father John Ssenyondo was found in a mass grave this past October (he went missing in April). Father Ssenyondo had spent six years working as a missionary in Mexico, and he had just celebrated mass in a village by Nejapa, in Guerrero, when he was abducted. Like with the previous examples, the murderers are thought to be narcos but no arrests have been made so far.
The aforementioned examples do not constitute the full list of members of the clergy that have been killed in Guerrero, much less in all of Mexico, in recent years.
Sadly, Latin American internal conflicts dating back to the ideological wars throughout the Cold War are known for gross human rights violations.
Case in point, the civil war in El Salvador started with the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. That conflict is also known for the massacre of six Jesuits priests, a housekeeper and her daughter, in the University of Central America in 1989.
Another important, and tragic, example is Peru; the country experienced a bloody civil war throughout the 1980s until the early 1990s, which pinned government forces against two insurgent movements, the Shining Path and the MRTA. An important development happened in November: three priests, two Polish and one Italian, which were assassinated by the Shining Path in 1991 will become martyrs. It is expected that Pope Francis will travel to Peru in 2015 to carry out the ceremony.
While it is positive that Archbishop Romero in El Salvador and the three priests in Peru will rightfully be beatified, it is tragic that a trademark of Latin American internal conflicts is their disrespect for non-combatants, particularly members of the clergy.
As for Mexico, the three recently murdered priests highlight the violence that the country continues to experience, particularly in the state of Guerrero. If a couple of years ago the state of Michoacán was regarded as the most violent state of the country, Guerrero arguably holds this title nowadays.
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