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Joined: 2007/11/6
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 drug gangs fund new churches

Mexico drug gangs fund new churches
Sunday Apr 6 08:07 AEST
Violent drug gangs in Mexico, which kill thousands of people a year, fund the building of churches in impoverished villages to try to win over locals, a senior Catholic bishop says.

"They are very generous," Bishop Carlos Aguiar told a press conference, Reforma newspaper reported on Saturday.

Aguiar, who heads Mexico's Catholic bishops' conference, said drug traffickers pour money into poverty-stricken towns where the government lacks funds to build roads or provide electricity.

"The drug smugglers build things that mean a lot for these communities," he said. "Many times they will build a church or a chapel."

Aguiar said the church does not condone drug trafficking and tries to use its influence to get gangsters to leave the trade.

"I'm not justifying it, I'm just saying how it is," he said.

More than 2,500 people died in Mexico last year in a war between rival cartels for control of smuggling routes to the US. Cartel hitmen often torture, suffocate or behead rivals.

Aguiar did not say if the drug gangs directly gave money to the church to use for building places of worship or if they supported the construction works in other ways. Church officials could not be reached for comment on Aguiar's statements, made on Friday and published in several newspapers.

The apparently cordial relations between gangsters and clergy, at least in small towns, stands in stark contrast to President Felipe Calderon's aggressive anti-drug war.

Calderon has sent about 25,000 troops and federal police to trafficking hot spots since he took office in December 2006.

Troops have put hundreds behind bars, although few major smugglers have been caught in the dragnet.

Drug violence this year has killed more than 800 people.

The Gulf Cartel from north-eastern Mexico is at war with a group of traffickers based in Sinaloa state and other smaller gangs are also in conflict


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