A bishop in Guerrero is aiming to broker a Christmas truce between feuding cartels in the state’s Sierra region.
Salvador Rangel, bishop of the Chilapa-Chilpancingo diocese, said he is seeking to hold talks with cartel leaders to that end.
“If wars stop at Christmas even at the world level, why not in Guerrero? Let’s make that period, the most beautiful of the year, one in which we can live in peace,” he said in an interview after attending the first day of a peace forum held this week.
Warring cartels previously agreed to a truce during the electoral process leading up to the July 1 elections, Rangel said.
Guerrero, one of Mexico’s largest opium-poppy producing states, is plagued by violent crime largely caused by territorial disputes between criminal gangs.
The bishop said that as a result of his almost-constant dialogue with its leaders, he convinced the Sierra Cartel to allow traffic to pass freely on the highway between Filo de Caballos, in the municipality of Leonardo Bravo, and the state capital Chilpancingo.
Schools and medical services in the lower part of the Sierra region are also operating normally, he said.
However, Rangel said that he hadn’t yet managed to meet with the leaders of feuding criminal groups operating in Tlacotepec, a city located on the other side of the Sierra region in the municipality of Heliodoro Castillo.
He said there are two “violent groups” there that have made traveling to Chilpancingo impossible, adding that he was hopeful that he could meet with leaders of the two groups at the same time.
“It’s difficult to get everyone together because each group has its own interests . . . that would be ideal but for now the meetings will be separate,” Rangel said.
Speaking earlier at the peace forum, the bishop told attendees that he has frequently traveled to Sierra communities to hold talks with narco leaders aimed at achieving peace and reconciliation.
Rangel charged that politicians and government institutions have failed to bring about peace because they are corrupt.
He has long urged authorities to follow his lead and engage in dialogue with criminal gangs as a means to achieve peace.
Last year, the bishop created controversy when he said that crime gangs are part of the social fabric of remote Guerrero communities that cultivate drugs and their presence is accepted and welcomed by inhabitants.