Drug-Fueled Cartel Rampage Ends With Two Dead Priests Dumped in a Mexican Desert

A capo from an infamous Mexican crime group finally went on a rampage last week in the state of Chihuahua killing two elderly priests and a tour guide sought refuge from sicarios in a church, according to Mexican authorities.

The murder happened in the small desert town of Cerocahui, about 480 miles from the Arizona border. According to Mexican police, the crime was staged by Noriel.”El Chueco“Portillo, who is believed to be the regional leader of the Salazar gang.

Reverends Javier Campos, 79, and Joaquín Mora, 80, appear to have died while trying to protect local guide Pedro Palma, who was kidnapped and beaten by Chueco and his men before he escaped and fled into the Cerocahui church. Two other Cerocahui residents were also abducted during the criminal attack by Chueco and still missingpolice said.

Witnesses said the bodies of Campos, Mora and Palma were all taken out of the church by Chueco’s men and loaded into a truck. Agencies have Find in the desert outside town two days later.

Pope Francisco issued a statement on Twitter about the violence, saying: “I express my pain and dismay at the murder in Mexico, the day before, of two Jesuits and a layman. How many murders in Mexico! Violence does not solve the problem, it only adds to the undue suffering.”

Father Jorge Atilano, who serves in the same parish as Campos and Mora, told The Daily Beast that both of his fellow priests have dedicated their lives to helping the outraged. The Tarahumara who live in the rugged mountains of the Sierra Madre in Chihuahua.

“Sierra is controlled by organized crime,” Atilano said, but explained that Campos and Mora had learned to make peace with armed groups.

“They know how to have tacit cohabitation agreements [with the narcos]. They were respected as priests, they were respected by everyone. They were esteemed and their words were heard by all. “

Mexican Bishop Jose Gonzalez—A close friend of priests Campos and Mora — called the two “martyrs” in an interview with The Daily Beast.

[Chueco] high drug use. He’s famous for going crazy when he’s that way.

“They are holy people… I’m sorry we lost our brothers […] but I’m glad they saved their lives in the end. Imagine you are devoting your life to someone else’s life. This is evangelical, right? So the Lord tells us that there is no greater friend than the one who gives his life for others,” said González, who oversees a diocese in the state of Guerrero, Mexico.

After the killings, state attorney general Javier Fierro told reporters that Chueco’s turmoil had occurred. spark by a local baseball team he sponsored suffered a loss. But Father Atilano says the lost game is only part of the story.

“[Chueco] high drug use. He’s famous for going crazy when he’s that way,” Altilano said. “He was high on drugs and went crazy for two days. He burned down a house [in Cerocahui] also.”

Asked about Pedro Pallma’s death, Altilano said: “We don’t know why he attacked the tour guide. We know that he previously kidnapped a tourist.”

Finally a reference to case of U.S. hiker Patrick Braxton-Andrew, who was abducted and killed by Chueco in 2018, after mistaking him for a DEA Agent.

A police officer stands guard during the funeral procession for Jesuit priests Javier Campo Morales and Joaquin Mora.

HERIKA MARTINEZ / AFP via Getty Images

Following the recent murder in Cerocahui, Mexican officials offered a reward of 5 million pesos ($250,000) for information leading to the arrest of Chueco Portillo. However, domestic and international media outlets have begun to question how Chueco is still operating after being implicated in the murder of an American citizen.

“In these isolated areas, drug traffickers operate with complete impunity and they threaten violence against the authorities,” said Mike Vigil, former director of international operations for the DEA. against them.

“El Chueco has never been arrested for killing an American hiker because that would be an automatic death sentence for anyone who charges him with that crime,” Vigil said. “In many states in Mexico, the cartel has become the governing body of twisted and violent justice.”

According to Vigil, Chueco’s Salazar gang is the Chihuahua-based enforcement wing for the internationally influential Sinaloa Cartel, formerly run by Chapo Guzmán, and now controlled by a loose coalition of family and members of the public. his followers.

“El Salazar operates in the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua,” the DEA warned. “They are engaged in the large-scale cultivation of cannabis and poppy.”

Mr. Vigil added that Salazar’s outfit was also accused of causing the deaths of several US citizens just a few years ago.

They feel like owners [of Mexico]and we cannot continue to allow that.

“In 2019, three women and six children from a Mormon region in Sonora were ambush and brutally murdered,” said Mr. Vigil. “Although never resolved, it is believed that the Salazar gang was involved in the massacre.”

After the unsolved murders and kidnappings in Cerocahui, several prominent Mexican Jesuits spoke out. complain that in some parts of Mexico, the government has ceded control to the cartel.

“When the state has no control over territory and allows private armed groups to control it, we call it what we call it,” said Father Luis Hernández, chancellor and professor at the Ibero-American University in Coahuila state. a failed state. Mexican News Daily.

Hernández added that they “can do whatever they want”. “They feel they are the masters [of Mexico]and we cannot continue to allow that.”

The killing of priests in Cerocahui also led to new questions about the peace strategy of appeasing the gangs authorized by the administration of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

“Mexico’s Non-Confrontational Policy, Called”Abrazos no Balazos“It has led to a state of failure where criminals blatantly murder priests, journalists and other innocent people,” Mr Vigil said. “The killing of two Jesuit priests is directly related to this futile strategy.”

The surviving parish priest of Cerocahui agrees with Vigil.

“What we have seen is that the federal government’s strategy is not to attack the cartels,” Father Altiliano said. “And that is making the cartel stronger.”

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