Tarahumara Mountains: Two priests and a tourist guide killed, four tourists missing in Mexico | International

Jesuit priests Javier Campos Morales, 78, and Joaquín Mora, 80, were murdered Monday in a church in the village of Cerocahui, in the Tarahumara mountains, in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua. Both were shot while sheltering a 60-year-old tour guide named Pedro Palma who was being chased by assailants. local authorities have confirmed.

Despite the pleas of the only priest spared, the criminals threw the bodies into a van and these have yet to be found. In addition to the religious and the guide, four other people were kidnapped Monday morning in this small town of just over 1,000 inhabitants. The victims are two men, a woman and a minor, according to the prosecution.

Authorities confirmed that there were two attacks. The first concerned the kidnapping of Paul Osvaldo B. and Armando B., as well as an unidentified woman and a minor. The second incident took place around 1 p.m. inside the church, where three men were shot dead according to the statement from the prosecution.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador confirmed the facts during his press conference on Tuesday and acknowledged the violence suffered by the state of Chihuahua due to the onslaught of organized crime. “We are now dealing with this case. It seems that we already have information about the possible perpetrators of these crimes,” he said.

The multiple crime in the Sierra Tarahumara is another reminder that Mexico is suffering the bloodiest numbers in its history, with 90 to 100 murders a day. No matter how much López Obrador may boast of “containment” in homicide figures, killings like Monday’s send a powerful message: Whether or not more murders take place will depend on the will of the criminals.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during his press conference on Tuesday. Sashenka Gutierrez (EFE)

According to the religious organization Centro Católico Multimedial, about 30 priests have been murdered in the last decade in Mexico. The wave of violence has also reached inside churches and temples which often house citizens fleeing the attackers.

The main suspect is a criminal leader in the region, Jose Noriel Portillo, better known El Chueco, according to local press. The region is besieged by organized crime, which controls the land and forests. Thousands of people are uprooted at gunpoint and absolute impunity reigns not only in this poor and marginal region of northern Mexico, but also in many other parts of the country.

Chihuahua Governor Maru Campos condemned the killing of the priests at a press conference on Tuesday, though she did not mention the other crimes, which are under preliminary investigation, a statement said. from the state attorney general’s office. The fate of the four kidnapping victims is still unknown.

Ricardo Palma, the tour guide’s son, told EL PAÍS that he received a call on Monday from a colleague of his father explaining what had happened. “While they were eating at the Mision Cerocahui hotel, an armed group broke in and took him away with a group of tourists,” he explained via WhatsApp, as he boarded a plane bound for Mexico in Barcelona, ​​where he is doing a medical residency in a hospital. “The touring van he was driving was abandoned in front of the hotel.”

Palma’s father was an experienced tour guide who had worked for over 40 years in the Sierra Tarahumara. He had worked for international agencies such as Grand Circle Travel, Caravan Tours, American Orient Express.

“We live under constant threat and harassment. But we had never reached that limit,” said Javier Avila, one of the main leaders of the Jesuit community who has worked in the Tarahumara mountains for decades. “This crime will never be understood, because it has no logic. It is the result of official stubbornness in the face of a very tragic reality. The whole country, and not just the Tarahumara region, is covered in flagrant and alarming impunity. It hurts a lot to say it, but it is a reality. There has been no one, in any six-year administration, who has said, ‘Enough is enough.’

Javier Campos Morales had worked in the regions for 34 years. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1959, at the age of 16, and was ordained in 1972. A year later he began his mission in the Sierra Tarahumara. Joaquín César Mora joined the Jesuits in 1958, also at the age of 16. He was ordained a priest in 1971.