Page 2, 22nd August 1986

22nd August 1986
Page 2
Page 2, 22nd August 1986 — Michael Tangeman reports from Mexico City on disturbing events in Chihuahua

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Locations: Mexico City, Rome


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Michael Tangeman reports from Mexico City on disturbing events in Chihuahua

Vatican order ends Mexico electoral fraud fast protest

A MEXICAN archbishop ordered by the Vatican to cancel a planned "Massless Sunday" protest of alleged election fraud said the ban was influenced by Mexico's interior minister (Catholic Herald, July 18). Archbishop Adalberto Merino of Chihuahua, also revealed that the ban on the protest came from Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, not from Pope John Paul II.

Interior Minister Manuel Bartlett Diaz is a member of the governing Revolutionary Institutional Party, which the 70-year-old archbishop charged with fraud in the July 6 state elections. The party has not lost a gubernatorial or presidential election since 1929.

In an interview in the August 4 issue of the Mexican news magazine Proceso, Archbishop Almeida told what happened after his announement that the 62 churches in his archdiocese would be closed July 20 to protest alleged fraud in gubernatorial and municipal elections. After the plan became public, the archbishop said, the apostolic delegate in Mexico, Archbishop Girolamo Prigione, was asked to speak to him by the interior minister. Archbishop Almeida said Bartlett declined to speak to him directly.

Following the talk, Archbishop Almeida said, the delegate called the Vatican, and Cardinal Casaroli gave the order to keep the churches open. "The apostolic delegate explained to me that they had not awakened the Pope because it was very late, and he was resting," Archbishop Almeida said. "But, the state department is the body immediately responsible, through which the Holy Father communicates."

When the apostolic delegate announced the Vatican decision, he said that "the Eucharist can never be an instrument of pressure for political motives." Archbishop Almeida complied with the instruction, and on July 20 he celebrated a sparsely attended evening Mass in the Chihuahua cathedral.

"I don't have the least doubt that if Rome knew the reality of the electoral process in Chihuahua, it would have supported us in our determination to suspend the Mass today," he said at the close of the service.

The papal delegate in Mexico has also asked Mayor Luis Alvarez in Chihuahua to end a fast which he began July 1 to protest at the electoral fraud. Mexico City newspapers reported that Archbishop Prigione telephoned the 66-yearold Alvarez on August 7 to tell him he had made his point and should end his life-threatening fast. "All life is sacred and should be treated as a blessing," Archbishop Prigione said.

Alvarez, a member of the opposition National Action Party, began the fast before the July 6 Chihuahua state elections, protesting what he said would be inevitable electoral fraud by the governing Revolutionary Institutional Party.

Other leaders of the conservative National Action Party, which has close ties to the Catholic Church, have since joined Alvarez in fasting. Alvarez, who has 11 children and 23 grandchildren, reportedly was very weak after his five foodless weeks. He has vowed to fast until death or until the Chihuahua state elections have been annulled.

*Southern Mexican bishops have charged federal officials with "complicity" in a sophisticated system of illegal narcotics cultivation and trafficking in their region. The nine bishops of Chiapas and Oaxaca states also warned in a pastoral letter that the traffic "could lead us in no time toward a generalised social disaster, given that with each day the amount of arable land dedicated to cultivating drugs is increasing.'' In the letter, titled "Narcotics Trafficking, A Pastoral Concern," they said drug traffickers in southern Mexico have a network for providing seed, credit, fertilisers and transport "which would be impossible without the complicity of high state and federal officials."

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