Celebrating Catholic Fanaticism in Mexico

“Chingan a sus Madres!” (“Fuck Your Mothers!”), the inebriated governor of Jalisco, Emilio Gonzalez Marquez, a charter member of the extreme right-wing clique “El Yunque” (“The Anvil”) snarled at detractors during a Guadalajara public presentation this past April 24th while a nervous Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez fidgeted in his seat.  Irate citizens of that west central state have been harshly critical of the governor’s use of state funds to underwrite several projects near and dear to the Cardinal’s heart, including the “Sanctuary of the Martyrs” to be built in the Guadalajara suburb of Tlaquepaque in memory of 26 Catholic martyrs slain during the 1926-29 Cristero war.  Opponents dub Gonzalez’s gift to the Church as the “Macro-limosna” (“super charitable donation.”)

Floor plans for the sanctuary, a 2.2 billion peso mega-project of which Gonzalez has pledged 90 million pesos of taxpayers’ money, reveal a 200,000 square meter domed structure, twice as big as Mexico City’s Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the most lucrative shrine in Christendom, raking in two billion pesos in an average year.  The “Sanctuary of the Martyrs” would be topped by a 65 meter illuminated cross visible from the moon and will have space for 118,000 reserved burial crypts to be subscribed at 25,000 pesos each with all proceeds accruing to Sandoval’s archdiocese.  Governor Gonzalez justifies the “Macro-limosna” as stimulating religious tourism and creating jobs.

“Alelujah! Alelujah Chinga la Madre Tuya!” (“Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Go Fuck Your Own Mother!”) protestors assembled by the left-center Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) howled on the threshold of Guadalajara’s colonial cathedral the next day in response to the governor’s outburst.  Police cordoned off the PRDers from furious counter-demonstrators chanting “Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long Live Christ the King!”), the battle cry of the Cristero movement.

The Cristero conflict erupted after post-revolutionary strongman General Plutarco Elias Calles closed down all Mexican Roman Catholic churches and seized Church property in 1926.  Mexico’s just-reorganized revolutionary army was dispatched to Jalisco, Guanajuato, and Michoacan to combat Cristo Rey guerrilleros who had risen in rebellion against Calles, blowing up troop trains and burning protestant missionaries and rural school teachers alive to rid the region of “Bolsheviks.”  According to a count kept by historian Jean Meyer, a total of 30,000 Mexicans on both sides were killed during the three year-long skirmish, including the 26 martyred Christ-the-King warriors. Decades later the martyrs were beatified by the late Pope John Paul II over the objections of secularists who consider the Cristeros to have been “bandits, terrorists and traitors” to the “patria” (fatherland.)

This past April, Pope John Paul’s successor, Benedict XVI AKA Josef Ratzinger, a member of a Nazi youth group in his native Germany, offered a Vatican Mass for the martyrs of Fascism and Communism, amongst whom he pointedly included the slain Christ-the-Kingers.

The revival of the Cristero crusade (for Catholic zealots in central Mexico it has never gone away) obeys the hierarchy’s strategy to reaffirm the Catholic Church’s place in Mexican history as the upcoming bicentennial of independence from the Spanish Crown and the 100th anniversary of the Mexican revolution coalesce in 2010.  Indeed, both of those watershed events were motivated by anti-Church sentiments.  In 1810, a soon-to-be defrocked priest Miguel Hidalgo led the brown and black underclass (Mexico was a third black at liberation) against the Crown and the Church, the largest landowner in the colony whose bishops openly collaborated with Spain.  A century later, impoverished Mexicans rose up against a dictator who had ruled for 34 years with the backing of the Catholic Church.

Plans for the Sanctuary and the “Route of the Pilgrims”, a 90 kilometer knock-off of Spain’s highly profitable Camino to Santiago Compostela pilgrims road, will put the Catholic Church’s signature on the upcoming celebrations.

Despite encroachment on Catholic hegemony by Evangelical “sects” (as the hierarchy here labels Protestant denominations), the Church of Rome has gained remarkable traction during the presidencies of Vicente Fox (2000-2006) and Felipe Calderon, elected in highly questioned 2006 balloting.  Both are members of the National Action Party founded in 1939 by a pair of Catholic bankers to oppose the “Bolshevik” polices of then-president Lazaro Cardenas.  Under Fox, who campaigned for high office literally wrapped in the banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Pope John Paul paid his final visits to the Aztec nation.  Secular Mexicans were appalled at the spectacle of their president kneeling to kiss the Pope’s ring.

The Mexican Constitution delineates a sharp separation between Church and State and does not recognize the authority of “God” – some Church officials label Mexico’s Magna Carta an “atheistic” document.

Vicente Fox, a native of the Guanajuato bajio or lowlands where the Cristero war is still a living memory, salted his administration with suspected members of the secretive Catholic organization El Yunque, among them Interior minister Carlos Abascal and Social Development secretary Ana Teresa Aranda who is now Calderon’s Undersecretary of the Interior for Religious Affairs.  Other Yunquistas who have served or serve Felipe Calderon include former Interior Minister Francisco Ramirez Acuna, Gonzalez’s predecessor as Jalisco governor, and Agricultural secretary Alberto Cardenas who was Fox’s environmental chief.

The genealogy of the Mexican Right and its ties to ultra-conservative elements in the Catholic hierarchy can be traced from the Cristero conflict to the founding of the PAN at the beginning of the second World War where the movement bifurcated – those who chose to move Mexico to the right through electoral politics set about to build the National Action Party, a grueling process that would not bring the PAN to power for another 60 years.

Radicalized militants aligned with the National Union of Sinarquists or “El Gallo” (“The Rooster” by virtue of the movement’s logo), brownshirts who preached anti-Semitism and backed Hitler – the Sinarquistas were able to delay Mexico’s participation in World War II through 1942.  One of the Sinarquistas’ founding fathers was Salvador Abascal, father of Fox’s Interior Secretary.  Although seriously diminished, the Sinarquist movement has never completely disappeared and the Gallo is applying for registration as a political party with an eye to running a candidate in 2012 presidential elections.

The Yunque which evolved from the Sinarquistas and the Christ the King Right was founded in Puebla in 1955 according to one-time militant Luis Paredes Moctezuma, former PAN mayor of Puebla city, and was financed by big landholders and industrialists
such as Hugo Salinas Price, father of tycoon Ricardo Salinas Pliego, now the owner of TV Azteca, Mexico’s second television network.

During the turbulent 1960s, a Yunque youth group, code-named MURO fought left-wing students at the University of Guadalajara – several leftist student leaders were assassinated.  The MUROs themselves split and one faction, the CARA (“Armed Revolutionary Action Commandos”) took to kidnapping businessmen and sticking up telegraph offices much like their leftist counterparts, according to “El Yunque”, a recently published volume assembled by investigative reporter Alvaro Delgado.

Besides Abascal and Aranda, other prominent PANistas who make no bones about their Yunquista inclinations are Manuel Espino, former PAN party president and now secretary general of the Christian Democrat Organization of the Americas (ODCA), and Jose Reyes Espina, former head of the COPARMEX, one of Mexico’s most conservative business federations.

Also linked to the Yunque are litigating attorneys Jose Antonio Ortega Sanchez and Guillermo Velasco Arzac – both are the public face of the political action group “Better Government, Better Society” which recently ran a venomous primetime hit piece campaign attacking leftist former presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as a follower of “Hitler, Mussolini, and Pinochet” (sic.)

Among supporting organizations that signed on to the group’s registration papers are the National Union of Sinarquists and ProVida, an anti-abortion lobby whose board of directors lists Calderon’s Undersecretary for Religious Affairs, the Yunquista Aranda, as a member.  Jalisco governor Gonzalez is also an avowed supporter of ProVida and recently fired his state AIDS commission chairman for distributing condoms to non-homosexuals, accusing him of fomenting immorality.

One creepy similarity between Gonzalez’s governance and the conservative Catholic hierarchy: both defend pederasty.  For decades, the Catholic Church turned a blind eye to charges that Legionnaires of Christ founder Macial Marcial was sodomizing acolytes – Marcial was finally retired by Rome and ordered to spend the rest of his life in penitence.  Mexico City Cardinal Norberto Rivera stands accused of protecting the serial rapist priest Nicolas Aguilar, charged with abusing over 90 young boys.  Governor Gonzalez has thrown up a protective wall around his attorney general and longtime associate Tomas Coronado who is under investigation for fondling two teenage girls at a private fiesta – Coronado remains Jalisco’s attorney general.

“I have here this pinche papelito” (“damn piece of paper”) Gonzalez hiccupped, waving a check for down payment on the Sanctuary of the Martyrs at Cardinal Sandoval, “if there are people who don’t like it, well then chingan a sus madres!”  In accepting the check, the Cardinal absolved the governor of blasphemy.

Sandoval himself has been less than polite in ripping his enemies – pro-choice advocates, feminists, gays and lesbians, condoms, and the infernal PRD against which he conducts, in his own words, “a holy war.”

At 75, the Cardinal is determined to complete his pet projects before he is obligated to retire by the Church, a process that has apparently been stayed by Pope Benedict – unlike liberationist Chiapas bishop Samuel Ruiz who Ratzinger forced out the day he turned 75.

But Sandoval’s “Mega-limosna” is not assured.  Congress has ordered an audit of the Jalisco budget to ascertain whether or not the donation violates the constitutional separation of Church and State.  Still, even if Sandoval is rebuffed, he will always have the “Narco-limosnas” (charitable donations by drug lords) with which to build his sanctuary.  Although never substantiated, it has often been suggested that the Cardinal is the recipient of top dollar donations from the nation’s narco lords seeking to buy their way into heaven.

Juan Sandoval Iniguez was appointed Guadalajara Cardinal following the May 23rd, 1993 assassination of his predecessor Juan Jesus Posadas, gunned down at the Guadalajara airport 15 years ago in what authorities described as a “mistaken identity” killing when he was purportedly caught in a crossfire between rival drug gangs.  Posadas was also suspected of drawing down big bucks from the narcos – the Cardinal performed Mass once a month at the Colinas de San Javier neighborhood chapel which was regularly attended by some of the most notorious names in Narcodom.

It is conjectured that Posadas’ facility for raising narco-limosnas for the Church was instrumental in his promotion from Archbishop of Guadalajara to Cardinal.  But when he subsequently began turning down the tainted donations, the drug lords, operating on the time-honored principal of “plata o plomo” (money or lead) had him whacked.

Following the Posadas assassination, two Arellano Felix brothers representing the Tijuana Cartel, which had been implicated in the hit, visited Papal Nuncio Giralamo Prigione to ask absolution.

Although Posadas’ murder was pinned on a case of mistaken identity, the Cardinal, who was shot from close range, was plainly identifiable in his Church robes with a foot-long pectoral cross around his neck, and Sandoval has always insisted that Posadas was a victim of a “Jacobin” (anti-clerical) plot organized by then-president Carlos Salinas.  Posadas’ successor has intensified his campaign to clear up the matter from year to year and the lawyer in the case, the aforementioned Jose Antonio Ortega Sanchez, remains on perpetual retainer thanks to the deep pockets of Governor Emilio Gonzalez – in 2008, the 15th anniversary of the Cardinal’s assassination, the Jalisco state government has kicked in 700,000 pesos of taxpayers’ money for Ortega Sanchez’s services.

The specter of the Narco-limosnas has troubled the Mexican Council of Bishops or CEM for years.  Ramon Godinez, the late Bishop of Aguascalientes, was out front in his acceptance of donations from local narcos, insisting that he “purified” the dirty money by doing good works with it.  More recently, current CEM president Carlos Aguir confessed that the nation’s narcos have approached Church leaders for “guidance and orientation” and praised kingpins as being “very generous” in building chapels and supporting the Church’s social service programs in remote communities.

When leftists charged that such donations constitute nothing less than money laundering, particularly during a narco-war that is drowning Mexico in blood, Calderon’s Undersecretary for Religious Affairs the Yunquista Ana Teresa Aranda refused to intervene, claiming that holding bishops accountable would be in violation of the “secret of the confessional”, a response that not all the members of the CEM were happy with.  “How can a father go to a church that was built with the blood of his children?” challenged Saltillo bishop Raul Vera, a liberationist and one-time coadjutor of Samuel Ruiz.

Despite ocular evidence that the narcos are financing construction, the CEM has not ordered any Catholic church structure suspected of being tainted with Narco-limosnas to tear itself down.

JOHN ROSS will be watching the NBA finals in California for the next three weeks.  These dispatches will be published every ten days during his spree.  For further disinformation write johnross@igc.org


JOHN ROSS’s El Monstruo – Dread & Redemption in Mexico City is now available at your local independent bookseller. Ross is plotting a monster book tour in 2010 – readers should direct possible venues to johnross@igc.org