Mexico says it will formally complain about Pope Francis' comments likening drug trafficking in Argentina to the “Mexicanization” of his home country.
Mexico’s Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Meade told reporters he's worried Mexico is being “stigmatized” and said his government intends to file a formal complaint with the Vatican. The pope's comments, which were made in a private email to an Argentine lawmaker, were published online over the weekend.
“We express sadness and concern over news of a private letter written by Pope Francis,” Meade said.
The pope's comments came in a letter he sent to Gustavo Vera, head of La Alameda, an Argentine NGO that has raised concerns about what it describes as a sharp spike in drug trafficking in the South American country. Vera posted Pope Francis' letter on the group’s website.
“Hopefully there’s still time to avoid a Mexicanization,” the pontiff wrote, according to the letter. “I was speaking with some Mexican bishops and the situation is terrible.”
In comments to the Argentine TV station Todo Noticias, Vera said Francis’ comments were not intended to offend Mexicans. The pope “loves the Mexican people very much,” he said.
The letter, however, hit a raw nerve in Mexico, a deeply Catholic nation. The pope's words also reflect how much the drug problem has shifted from Colombia to Mexico in recent years. Until recently, the term “Colombianization” was used to refer to problems of corruption and violence associated with the drug trade. The definition of Mexicanization, therefore, is clear even without appearing in the dictionary.
Pope Francis might just be echoing concerns raised by Mexico's clergy.
Last year, a report by Mexico’s Catholic Multimedia Center claimed Mexico has become the most dangerous country in the world for priests, several of whom have been targeted for speaking out against local drug lords and cartels.
The office of the Vatican’s representative in Mexico declined to comment. Jose de Jesus Aguilar, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico, said the pope’s comments are being misinterpreted. “The pope did not talk badly about Mexico; he is talking about a phenomenon that affects Mexico and Mexicans,” Aguilar told Fusion.
“The pope is very well informed about Mexico’s situation, from what happened to the Ayotzinapa students to the explosion in the children’s hospital of Mexico City," Aguilar added. "He worries about Mexico.”
The church spokesman said the lack of security in the country is affecting everyone, not only priests.
“Most of the people I have talked to believe the Pope wasn’t talking bad about Mexico, he was talking bad about the authorities,” Aguilar said.
Rafa Fernandez De Castro is a Fusion consultant for Mexico and Latin America. He covers Mexican youth, politics, culture, narcos and funny stuff once in a while.