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Drug Dealers Donate to the Church, Says Mexican Priest


November-December 1997

Comments made by Mexican Roman Catholic priest Rev. Raul Soto Vazquez about donations made to the Catholic church by drug traffickers prompted criticism that the church passively condones drug trafficking (Andrew Downie, "Mexico renews debate on church taking drug cash," Houston Chronicle, September 28, 1997, p. 28A; "Mexican drug money," USA Today, October 6, 1997, p. 10A; Mary Beth Sheridan, "Drug Lords Buy Way Into Church's Heart," Los Angeles Times (Washington Edition), October 21, 1997, p. A2).

Soto revealed that two of Mexico's most notorious drug traffickers, Rafael Caro Quintero, who is currently incarcerated, and Amado Carrillo Fuentes, who recently died, gave donations to the church. Soto said, "People with little saving graces such as Caro Quintero -- how good it would be if we gave so generously. And Amado Carrillo, who sometimes gave money for great projects. People don't care that he was a drug trafficker."

Soledad Loaeza, an expert on church-state relations at the Colegio de Mexico said, "The Catholic church all over the world has a history of covering things up." Loaeza added that the reason the government and the church have kept quiet is that there is an unwritten agreement between the two sides to not meddle in each other's affairs, which is normal for many Catholic countries.

Manuel Talamas, Archbishop Emeritus of Ciudad Juarez, told the magazine Proceso that donations to the church from drug traffickers should not be rejected on the basis that the money was earned illegally. Talamas said, "If we take away from them this manner of compensating, we send them to perdition." The Mexican Bishops Conference said that the church condemns donations from drug traffickers, and church leaders are adamant that they have no way of knowing who is donating what to their parish, and how the money was earned.