Cardinal Arizmendi: Extortions are overflowing

The path is the same as Jesus: to love and serve, in the family and in the community

Cardinal Felipe Arizmendi, bishop emeritus of San Cristóbal de Las Casas and responsible for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Conference of the Mexican Episcopate (CEM), offers Exaudi readers his weekly article titled “Extortions are overflowing.”



I do not invent what I share here; They are direct testimonies of those who live it every day. In my small town, for example, grocery stores cannot sell packs of cigarettes if they do not carry two seals indicating that they are authorized by the criminal group that controls almost everything in our region. They must purchase those cigarettes from a distributor authorized and obligated by them, at the price they command; They added more than a dollar to each pack.

What I talk about cigarettes is applied in a similar way to almost everything else. A kilo of tortillas, the staple food for the people, cost fifteen pesos; Today it is twenty-six (almost a dollar and a half), only because corn must be bought from whom they indicate and at the price they have. The same goes for eggs, chicken and almost all foods. If you want to build a house, or make some repairs, you cannot buy the materials in the capital city, where they are much cheaper, but with the distributor with whom they make an agreement, not by their will, but forced, and at the price they demand, because from each sale they receive a good percentage. Flower, avocado, tomato, chili, peach, cucumber, etc. farmers must pay their fee for each square meter of land, or for each box of their product. Many pay it to avoid reprisals, because they feel defenseless. Every day, several trucks loaded with pieces of pine wood leave the mountains near the Toluca Volcano, and pass freely along the roads without anyone being able to stop them. They don’t care about the damage they are causing to the environment, but rather about making money.

In our popular festivals, wines, liquors or beers cannot be sold, but only those that they themselves sell and at the price they want. You can only hire musical groups for these parties, if they authorize it; If it is done without their consent, they take even bloody reprisals. If jaripeos are scheduled, they must be authorized by them; They even force neighboring municipal presidents to pay a fee, and if they don’t, they risk losing their position. In order to let them govern their municipality, they must do so in accordance with them and under the conditions they impose. In the same elections, only the one who is authorized by them wins. They invade all life.

What does the authority do to avoid this? It does what it can, and we thank the military, national guard and state police for their sacrifices to protect the people, since they face many limitations in eating, sleeping and taking care of themselves from so many dangers; Their families suffer a lot too. However, the authority is overwhelmed and has not found an effective way to prevent the overflow of extortionists. They have too much power, due to the weapons they possess, and they control many territories, even in large cities.

The day the Texcapilla peasants defended themselves from the extortion group led by El Payaso, when their entire team was killed, four peasants were injured and were taken to the nearest hospital, in Coatepec Harinas. At night of that same day, another criminal group, from the same organization, arrived with weapons at the hospital and took three of the wounded; we do not know if they are alive or if they have already been killed, in retaliation, and so that other towns do not dare to do the same as those of Texcapilla. They left the fourth injured man because he told them that he was there for another reason. Two days later, the army arrived at the hospital to protect this wounded man, so that they would not come and take him too, and so that they would not take doctors or nurses to take care of their members. They tell us that there are twenty others missing, whose fate is unknown. With all this, our people live in constant fear. Our government is trying to do something to prevent it, but has not yet found the right way. They insist that people make complaints, but no one dares to do so, otherwise they risk losing their lives. Our President says that this is a drug trafficking problem; It is not like this. Only those in the criminal group consume drugs; our region is not a producer, consumer or trafficker of drugs.


The Mexican episcopate, in its Global Pastoral Project 2031+2033, says: “The social panorama has been gradually darkened by the alarming strengthening of organized crime that has multiple ramifications and an international environment that feeds and strengthens it, corrupting the mind and the hearts of people and authorities. The introduction of a narco-culture in our Mexican society, of getting money quickly, easily and in any way, has deeply damaged the minds of many people, who do not care about killing, stealing, extorting, kidnapping or doing anything in order to achieve their objectives. Facts sadly exalted every day as media material by the media. There are many causes that fuel this bonfire and keep this flame of pain burning: the loss of values, family disintegration, lack of opportunities, poorly paid jobs, rampant corruption at all levels, ungovernability, impunity, etc This society, which should offer all citizens the necessary conditions to live with dignity, is damaged and it is necessary that all of us as members of it become aware of this reality and take responsibility, so that it can fulfill itself as a space for dignified living. for all its members” (57).

Since February 15, 2009, in the message May Mexico have a dignified life in Christ, our peace, we expressed: “Extortion is another form of violence that is gaining ground. It consists of the intimidation of a person through threats, against their own freedom or physical integrity or that of their family members or against their assets, with the purpose of obtaining from them money transfers or behavior contrary to their will.

In recent years, violence caused by criminal organizations has increased in our country, different from domestic violence and that caused by common crime. This violence has its own characteristics, its causes and its circumstances. It is characterized by cruelty, revenge, the display of power and the intention to intimidate those considered rivals and the entire society. Some of the most common criminal activities in this context are: drug trafficking, kidnapping, human trafficking, money laundering, different types of extortion and intimidatory executions.”


We hope that the upcoming Christmas makes us reflect on the message of Jesus, who seeks the glory of God and peace in humanity. The path is the same as Jesus: to love and serve, in the family and in the community. May the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit make these hopes come true. Holy Christmas!