In Mexico’s Guerrero state, priests are a prime target for drug gangs

"People have ... so much hate, so much disregard for life," says Father Oscar Prudenciano Gonzalez of the San Gerardo church of Iguala, in Mexico's Guerrero state. (Deborah Bonello / Los Angeles Times)
“People have … so much hate, so much disregard for life,” says Father Oscar Prudenciano Gonzalez of the San Gerardo church of Iguala, in Mexico’s Guerrero state. (Deborah Bonello / Los Angeles Times)

By Deborah Bonello / LAT

Father Oscar Prudenciano Gonzalez opened his arms wide to his congregation on a recent Sunday morning in the San Gerardo church of Iguala, in the state of Guerrero.

“We are going to pray for those families who have missing people,” he said. “That God gives them the strength, the peace and the well-being so that they can carry on searching without tiring, but also with the understanding and support of everyone.”

Father Oscar, 43, might do well to pray for himself, too.

In the last three years, 11 priests have been violently killed in Mexico, and two more remain missing. Last week, the body of Father Erasto Pliego de Jesus, which bore signs of torture, was found on a country road in Puebla state. He had been missing for three days, according to local news reports, after he was seized by a group of armed men who stopped his truck.

Violence against Catholic priests has been on the rise since President Enrique Peña Nieto took power in 2012, according to Mexico’s archdiocese. Omar Sotelo, who works for the Catholic Multimedia Center, said that the jump in violence is “significant” and that priests working in Guerrero state are among the most vulnerable.

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In Mexico, there are 7 Femicides Each Day; 63 Percent of Women Face Gender Violence

A march in Cancun by several thousand people protesting the murder of women in November. (Twitter)
A march in Cancun by several thousand people protesting the murder of women in November. (Twitter)


In an ongoing femicide crisis in Mexico, seven women were killed every day on average across the country in 2013 and 2014 and dozens more faced other forms of gender violence, according to the national statistics institute known as Inegi.

According to Inegi statistics, 63 percent of Mexican women over 15 years of age have experienced some form of gender violence, which could include physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological violence as well as economic forms of abuse such as discrimination in the workplace.

Perpetrators of violence against women are strangers or people known to the victims, as in the case of abuse between partners, which is usually where physical violence occurs, according to Inegi. Economic abuse and economic control of women also often happens within a partnership or marriage.

The highlighted gender violence statistics come ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women today, Wednesday.

Despite more than 44,000 women murdered in the past three decades, according to official statistics, few perpetrators have been brought to justice. An impunity rate of more than 95 percent in femicide cases fuels violence against women.

In some Mexican states, femicides are 15 times higher than the global average.

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