"Many people arrested, but not the person responsible": the Jesuits of Mexico demand justice nine months after the assassination of two of their brothers, and strengthen their presence among the indigenous Raramuri community scattered in the Sierra Tarahumara.
"We were three. And now we will be five," murmurs Father Jesus Reyes, who watches over the Cerocahui mission in the state of Chihuahua (northwest). "We stay here with our people, both the natives and the mestizos."
It was in the small church next to his office that he witnessed the assassination of two other "priests" and a third man presented as a tourist guide on June 20. "I don't know if for this person (the alleged killer) there was a reason, but for us there was no reason" to kill them, he adds.
In the village square, built on a plateau on the edge of the Barranca (canyon) del cobre, security forces patrol around the religious building.
In bright sunshine, a few tourists visit the return grounds of the ultra-marathon that brought more than 400 foreign and Mexican runners to the canyon gorge last weekend.
Inside the temple, visitors come across portraits of Javier Campos, 79, and Joaquín Mora, 80. In the garden, two crosses mark the location of their grave.
"How many murders in Mexico!", reacted Pope Francis - a Jesuit - expressing his "pain and dismay" after their death and that of Pedro Eliodoro Palma Gutierrez.
In the temple, a volunteer who cleans the floor remembers the comforting presence of Javier Campos alias "el gallo" (the rooster, which he imitated to perfection).
"I have a son who disappeared 12 years ago. When it happened, the little father came to my house. With these words of comfort, he helped me a lot," says Cristina Dominguez.
A three-hour drive from Cerocahui, the Jesuits take care of a clinic for the Raramuri community in Creel, a "pueblo magico" (tourist village) and stage of the legendary Chepe train (Chihuahua-Pacific).
"Apart from that, we have a human rights office which it is up to me to chair," says Father Javier Avila in his office, whose paneled walls support an impressive collection of hand-carved crucifixes.
"There are many people arrested. But not the person in charge", he laments about the assassination of the two Jesuits and the guide.
"Because for me he is not presumed responsible. He is responsible," adds the father, who has had a security escort for some time.
It refers to the main suspect, an individual nicknamed "El Chueco" in his thirties, a local drug trafficker linked to the Sinaloa Cartel. The "Chueco" would also be responsible for illegal timber trafficking in the Sierra.
"By arresting this individual, we will not resolve the conflict. We will begin to resolve the conflict when we begin to destroy the scaffolding of delinquency which the State itself has allowed to be built", thunders the missionary with the collar of white beard, which announces a meeting with the authorities on March 16.
In passing, Father Avila makes fun of an old slogan of the President of the Republic Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who proposed "hugs, not shootings" with armed delinquency: "hugs are in the imagination of the government palace. The shootings are here."
At the end of February, the security forces killed "three suspected sicarii (hit men)" while repelling "an armed attack" near Cerocahui, the general prosecutor's office of the state of Chihuahua said on February 21, specifying that two agents have been hurt.
In the cool of the evening, a bell announces the entry of the train into Creel station.
Senior tourists descend to reach comfortable hotels at 100 dollars a night.
The violence in the region has had no impact on the number of people on the train that goes from Chihuahua to Los Mochis on the Pacific coast in the state of Sinaloa, assures a manager of "Chepe" Emilio Carrazco: "We did the full in December and January, which is the low season. There is a lot of interest in coming to discover the Barranca del cobre, which is four times deeper than the Colorado canyon".
03/12/2023 08:21:17 - URIC (Mexico) (AFP) - © 2023 AFP