June 4, 2023

More than two months later, a pair of Jesuit priest killed Inside a church in a remote mountainous community in northern Mexico, the suspect remains at large and citizens are terrified, but religious groups say they will not leave.

the killing Javier Campos and Joaquin Mora, and the travel guides they sought asylum, provoking the wrath of the Mexican and Roman Catholic Churches. Frustration mounts over the failure to catch the suspect, the alleged leader of a local drug gang, Jose Portillo Gill (alias “El Chueco” or “The Liar”).

Two priests who survived the attack remain in the parish of Cerocahui in Chihuahua’s Tarahumara Mountains, but are now escorted by the military.

Despite the killings and ongoing security concerns, the Jesuit order dismissed any idea of ​​shutting down its mission. Jorge González Candia, an adviser to the Roman Catholic Jesuit Society in Mexico, said the group was sending two other priests and a study clergyman.

“We saw very clearly that we couldn’t back out because of fear or insecurity,” Gonzalez said.

Mexican authorities search for bodies of priest and others kidnapped in Mexico City
Jesuit priests in pictures of two murdered priests, Javier Campos and Joaquin Moura, after Mexican authorities said they were searching for their bodies and others kidnapped in San Ignaciode, a violent northern Mexico Mass is held next to the Loyola Church in Mexico City, Mexico June 21, 2022.

Edgard Garrido/Reuters

Tensions in Cerocahui rose after a video of a masked man claiming to be Portillo Gil circulated on social media last week. The man has denied responsibility for the killing, saying he knew what really happened and appeared to make implicit threats to one of the surviving priests.

“After that video, we asked for protective measures,” Gonzalez said. The Jesuits fear the gang could attack their people in the area, something that has never happened in their decades of working with indigenous communities in the mountains.

Gonzalez said it was “incredible” that 1,000 soldiers and 200 National Guard troops deployed to the area failed to locate Portillo Gil.This State Attorney’s Office announced A reward of $250,000 is offered for information leading to the arrest of the alleged killer. The office said it was the highest award offered in the state’s history.

Portillo Gil already has a pending arrest warrant but continues to roam the area with impunity. He is also accused of killing Patrick Braxton-Andrew, a 34-year-old Spanish teacher from North Carolina, in 2018 while traveling in the Tarahumara Mountains. Portillo Gil’s gang apparently suspected Braxton-Andrew as an American drug dealer.

Portillo Gil’s gang is believed to be linked to Los Salazar, which is linked to the Sinaloa cartel.

Following the killings, the military established a base in the area. Now the soldiers accompany the Jesuits as they travel in the area.

González Candia said the two surviving priests who remained in Cerocahui asked for it because “people love the land, the culture, the people, and they see the need to accompany them in mourning.” However, he said the order would continue to be evaluated their situation.

When asked if capturing Portillo Gil would solve the crime problem in the area, González Candia said it has been seen elsewhere that “when you only catch one boss, the criminal group multiplies, the number of crimes increases, Prisons will also be full.”

He said investigations, changes in local structures and political will were needed to make changes that would bring about peace.

ecclesiastical Catholic Multimedia Center says Seven priests were murdered under the current government that took office in December 2018, and at least two under the former president who took office in 2012. In 2016, Three priests killed in just one week in Mexico.

Mexican priest killed
A crime scene is cordoned off around the church in Cerocahui, Mexico, where two elderly Jesuit priests were killed, June 22, 2022.

Christian Chavez/Associated Press

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