Spokesman for church in Ciudad Juarez welcomes new U.S.-Mexican plans

By David Agren/Catholic News Service

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — A spokesman for the Diocese of Ciudad Juarez welcomed plans by the Mexican and U.S. governments to focus more on social and economic problems in Mexico, instead of just military and law enforcement crackdowns on the rampant violence attributed to narcotics-trafficking cartels.

“The social sphere requires attention,” said Father Hesiquio Trevizo, spokesman, told Catholic News Service from Ciudad Juarez, the city that borders El Paso, Texas.

“We lack schools, lack hospitals and lack jobs. There’s enormous poverty,” Father Trevizo told CNS. “The response can’t be exclusively militaristic.”

The change of course, announced during a March 23 visit to Mexico City by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, would put increased focus on creating jobs and reducing poverty in areas rife with violence.

The new approach comes as drug-related border violence has claimed more than 18,000 lives since December 2006 and left parts of Mexico — such as Ciudad Juarez — almost ungovernable.

Clinton called the situation “a shared problem” and acknowledged long-held Mexican complaints that rampant U.S. demand for illicit drugs and the illegal importation of firearms into Mexico fuels violence south of the border.

She announced an expansion of a security agreement known as the Merida Initiative to include “institution building … and working together to spur social and economic development.”

The Mexican economy contracted by 6.8 percent in 2009 and the remittances sent home by migrants abroad also diminished, factors Clinton said the drug cartels have exploited in recruiting young members.

Father Trevizo said violence has affected church activities in Ciudad Juarez. For example, he said, many parishes only celebrate Mass during the daylight hours because people fear being out after dark.

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