" Migrants are the famous people. Theyre confronting the obstacles, were here to accompany them." Norma Romero, coordinator of the group known as Las Patronas supported by the Mexican bishops human mobility ministry The love affair between the Catholic Church and Central American Migrants: challenges of media coverage on the Mexican conflict “Migrants are transforming everything and one of the institutions overcoming most changes is the Catholic Church. They are questioning strongly the high hierarchy with just its presence” Father Alejandro Solalinde, migrant’s advocate listed in Amnesty’s International list of people at risk María Ximena Plaza The New School
This is the opening image of a 2011 National Catholic Reporter article. The photography’s caption reads: “migrant carries a wooden cross on the outskirts of Mexico City, during a symbolic pilgrimage to celebrate the Mexican Senates passage of new immigration legislation.” The news report titled“ Mexican Catholics working with undocumented migrants welcome new law” starts by explaining how the law constitutes an effort to improve the treatment of migrants transiting north as they have become target of kidnapping and ransoms. The image, along with the article, is an example of how U.S. and Mexican catholic media coverage has presented stories about migrants, usually Central American born migrants, by making links between the figure of the Catholic Church and this vulnerable population. These links are repeatedly found as well across U.S. and Mexican mainstream media. This paper aims at analyzing the prominence of the figure of the Catholic Church in news reports about migrants transiting Mexico in the midst of the current armed conflict. By drawing on Mexican history and 2011 media coverage on the topic, I aim to demonstrate that the Catholic Church has been a recurrent media source as the institution upholds a predominant role in the nation’s social and political spheres. However, this role has gained greater visibility during the current civil conflict. In fact, the Catholic Church and some of its representatives have risen as a recurrent media source on the abuses faced by migrants in Mexico, denunciations of Government performance and recommendations for policymaking improving the livelihoods of this population. In my view, this portrayal of migration and conflict in the country presents challenges to enable media as a tool for peace building through dialogue among the different parties of the conflict, given that it perpetuates the same relations among actors: the Catholic church continues to be a direct and recognizable speaker to the Government through media, while voices of migrants remain under the church’s discourse and ideology. Thus, migrants are represented as “victims”, instead of citizens who bear human rights and have political agency to make discernible claims to Governments through public opinion. Another kind of media representation would allow migrants to escape from navigating through the different motivations and actions carried by actors influencing the conflict. Central American migrants would cease to be an “easy target” in the conflict thanks to a greater visibility in public discourse.
Migrants as victims of the Mexican armed conflict In order to understand how migrants got trapped into the dynamics of the Mexican armed conflict, it is necessary to explain the character and evolution of this war. Carpenter (2010) contends that Mexico is undergoing a factional‐ economic conflict. Maill et al (2005) clearly explains this concept: “a factional‐economic conﬂict consists on ﬁghting solely about the competing interests or power‐struggles of political or criminal factions whose aim is to usurp, seize or retain state power merely to further particular interests.” In the case of the Mexican conflict, Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTO) spread throughout the country to control significant territory. However these groups are not driven by a specific political ideology or aim at using this territorial control to legitimate governance. Instead the driving force is the interest to control smuggling routes, sources, markets and alliances. Carpenter (2010) clarifies that “drug trafﬁcking organizations are not an early autonomous specialized social group, rather a new class of outlaws that depended closely on political and police protection.” There are cases reported through media of the close relationships between these organizations and politicians as well as officials, who have been accused of corrupt practices bribery, nepotism, and theft for public money. Until 2000 these crimes were committed in the context of a state party system: the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), who had control over judicial, legislative and executive branches. As it is well documented, for many decades Mexico had in place a highly centralized power structure that was not only permissive, but also protective of organized criminal activities (Cornell, 2007). DTOs have used these relationships with the state to expand their monopolistic behavior correlated with ruthlessness and exploitation (Schelling) of populations such as Central American migrants. The Zetas, a group born out of “Cartel del Golfo” DTO as a military or “enforcement enterprise” specializing in kidnapping, extortion and human trafficking have been repeatedly accused of targeting Central American Migrants. Alongside these allegations, human rights nonprofits and migrants themselves have referred to the complicity of police force and local authorities (Carpenter, 2010). According to the 2011 Human Rights Watch Report, hundreds of thousands of migrants pass through Mexico each year and many are subjected to grave abuses en route including physical and sexual assault, extortion, and theft. Approximately 18,000 migrants are kidnapped annually, often with the aim of extorting payments from their relatives in the United States. Around half of them are Central American Migrants. A case generating great commotion in the country was the execution of seventy‐two kidnapped migrants originating from Central and South America by armed gangs from Tamaulipas in August 2010 (Mexican National
Commission of Human Rights, 2009.) The HRW report adds, “Authorities have not taken adequate steps to protect migrants, or to investigate and prosecute those who abuse them. Authorities rarely inform migrants of their rights, such as the right to seek asylum, and the authorities themselves are often the perpetrators of abuses.” Since 2007, the National Migration Institute has fired 15 percent of its total force for suspected links with organized crime and crimes such as human trafficking. Their vulnerability is increased by the fact that the Federal Population Law requires public officials to demand that foreign citizens show proof of their legal status before offering any service, such as providing medical care and registering human rights complaints. Although a new law on migrants was passed, those who suffer abuses often choose not to report crimes out of fear of deportation. (Human Rights Watch, 2011) During the last decade the Mexican Government, especially under the leadership of the National Action Party (PAN) President Felipe Calderón, has pushed for the arrest of key drug lords, straining the relations between DTO’s and state. In the absence of the arrested or killed druglords, a leadership vacuum has take place and the stable relationships within the organized crime chain have fractured into increasing competition for power and territory. Previous to these measures, “narcos” avoided direct confrontation with law enforcement by trading social order (refraining from actions of wide‐scale violence) for relative impunity to operate. As the competition among DTOs and narcos has increased, they have passed from intercartel rivalries over routes and resources to winning the right to start or continue trafficking to “hurting the other”. In this struggle for survival, the “cartels” seek to preserve their illicit power structure alongside the state (Osorio, 2011). Their motivations to continue this factional conflict have become greater as the drug trade brings $23 billion in revenue annually, which makes up for 20% of Mexico’s GDP in 2007 (U.S. GAO, 2007). In this scenario not only DTOs are profiting, but also groups such as Los Zetas who will continue to expand its military power as its business will increasingly become the conflict itself. (Cornell, 2007) Furthermore, recently they have found new ways of sustainability such as extortions to migrant families and human trafficking of this population for prostitution or sale to DTOs, among other purposes (El Universal, 2011). The political and social influence of the Catholic Church in Mexico Hagopian (2006) posits that in the last years “the Mexican church has assumed a more assertive tone on public policy than at any time in nearly a century.” The author adds that catholic representatives such as Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City in the last years have
actively denounced the plight of migrants in the midst of the conflict, among other topics related to social justice and democracy. This growing influence on public policy and politics has been possible after the 1992 constitutional reform which relaxed the sharp constitutional separation of church and state that had prohibited the Church from owning property and priests from voting since the revolution, though the clergy still cannot speak about politics or proselytize for or against any political party or candidates (Hagopian, 2006). Though the latter has not refrained the church to support certain candidates or parties. Why would the church cease to have direct actions affecting the political sphere when the international catholic establishment exhorted its members to increase its influence in political actions? In 1992 Pope John Paul II proposed the “new evangelization project” aimed at “deepening church influence over civil society, and organizing the public sphere on the principles of faith” (Hagopian 2006) Tahar (2010) posits that the project necessarily required the church to adopt positions on questions of public morality and social justice and to mobilize the believers for political action. In 1992, the Latin American Catholic Bishops Conference (CELAM) embraced this proposal (Hagopian, 2006). However authors such as Jean‐Pierre Bastian (1997) have insisted that secularization in the Latin America has always had formal and jurisdictional expressions, but not real and practical ones. Hagopian (2010) adds that there was an implicit pact between the Mexican state and the church, respectively responsible for the public order and the private order. In other words the church had been accumulated legitimacy as moral authority, which would be further reflected in the public sphere after the 1992 reform. This idea is further explained throughout the 2010 survey and research carried out by Mancilla (2010) to minority religious groups in Mexico. Some of the interviewed groups argued that the 1992 reform was thought for the Catholic Church, following the “noticeable preference of the state for this church.” Mancilla (2010) says that these appreciations shed light on the perceptions on the nexus between public space and Catholicism in Mexico across several aspects: political participation, mass media and in education. She adds that it is difficult to deny that the new constitution did not bring a greater openness in the public space for all religious groups, however the reform allowed small steps for minority religious groups compared to those already taken and being advanced by the Catholic Church (Mancilla, 2010). Loaeza (1996) recalls that when the Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari won in 1988 presidential elections, his opening speech covered “the modernization of the relations between state and churches.” The author says, “Despite referring to all religious institutions, the
main recipient of the elected president’s proposal was the Roman Catholic Church.” These historical processes lead Hagopian (2006) to say that the Mexican state has continuously accommodated very well the integrating effect of the foundation myth of the catholic nation. The Mexican church’s political influence became even more visible during the 2000 elections, when the Episcopal Conference gave its support to the PAN candidate Vicente Fox. Through written documents, the Conference advocated for a “democratic change” implicitly supporting PAN over PRI, which had been in office during more than 80 years. Fox answered with a document called “Project to build a nation: religious liberty and relations Church‐ State” in which he proposed to include unsatisfied demands by the church within the Mexican jurisdictional framework and also posited opening mass media spaces for the Catholic Church (Pérez ‐ Rayon, 2010). Authors such as Perez Rayon defend that the catholic hierarchy made indirect and direct exhortations to the populations, specially located in rural and popular urban areas, for the support to Fox. Not surprisingly Fox won the elections, as there were 88 percent of Catholics in the country by 2000 (El Universal, 2011) Tahar (2010) posits that “ with the political change in 2000, the Catholic Church recovers positions, aiming at taking advantage of the democratic processes for its own purposes.” The 2000 elections were very symbolic also for public representation of church and politics. The elected president’s campaign used the Virgin of Guadalupe as one of its main images. A year after the elections, news reports showed president Vicente Fox greeting Pope John Paul II while kneeling down and kissing the papal ring (see photo below), which was considered as a an act of submissiveness toward the Vatican’s authority (Pérez‐Rayón, 2010). Therefore in the last decade the symbiosis between the representation of politics and Catholic church has increased and is a recurrent element throughout media stories about the current armed conflict and civilian populations threatened by violent acts such as Central American Migrants as I will explain in the following pages.
Catholic Church and media in Mexico A violent act catapulted furthermore the church as a deserving actor of media attention, specially regarding the Mexican civil conflict. In 1993 hit men killed the cardinal of Guadalajara, Juan Jesús Posada. The hit men allegedly confused the prelate’s white Grand Marquis with the one driven by “ El Chapo”, a drug trafficker that had gotten in trouble with business associates. The visibility of the fatal event beyond locating the church at the center of the news setting agenda also enabled the institution to a position of scrutiny. Local newspapers printed the statement of one drug lord, who suggested that the cardinal had a relationship with his organization. Some argued that these organizations funded projects of the Tijuana dioceses. (Ugarte, 1997). The mystery of the death of the cardinal remains unresolved, with media and Government bodies turning the page and starting a new chapter in the thriller of crimes and deaths left by the conflict. As the drug war has unfolded the use of media by the religious institution and its construction of narratives draws on elements of the “Cristero” conflict, as it will be further demonstrated in the media analysis below. The “Cristero” conflict is known as the moment in Mexican history when catholic factions decided to fight against the Government established in 1917 as a result of the Mexican Revolution. At this time suspicions regarding church support for the revoked regime led by autocrat Porfirio Díaz drove the revolutionary Government to create legal dispositions concerning catholic practices. The reaction of the catholic hierarchy was to suspend masses and an armed conflict was born in 1926 (López, 2011). During the “Cristero” conflict there was an on‐going use of media by the church in order to claim religious persecution and also to narrate a different version on the happenings of the conflict. Beyond libels, magazines and letters, the Catholic Church made use of mainstream media as the institution had greater support than the revolutionary government. As censorship increased, information about the catholic persecution was sent to foreign media outlets. Serna posits that catholic media messaging was framed using the tone of biblical texts and the catholic led publications become a “diary of martyr.” She adds that this narrative consisted in: “Bloody stories and images aiming at capturing the attention of readers. In this way, victims are covered by a saint aura… Journalists and Catholic Journalists achieve greater effectiveness in several fields: agitate the consciences of their followers to gain more supporters in the struggle against the state. At the same time it allowed to strengthen arguments against the Government’s crimes.” (Serna, 2007)
The conflict lasted three years and culminated with a negotiation between state and church, which ended state intervention in religious practices, but did not open the church to have a juridical status. As I mentioned before, it was until the 1992 constitutional reform that the church gained this status. Rayón Pérez (2010) highlights that since then “the church is completely integrated to the political fora, has a large presence in media and has become a direct and open speaker to the Government”, allowing the institution to recur to Cristero war media practices: the use of local and international catholic media and the institution’s representation in mainstream media as well with the aim of showing persecution of catholic representatives by the Government, focusing on martyrs and victims such as the same persecuted priests or migrants and denunciations of Government crimes. The new characters of these media practices are undocumented migrants. Regarding the interest of the church in migrants, it is undeniable the work of the institution to improve the livelihoods of this population. In fact, since 1999 the institution created a network of migrant shelters, which are close to 50 and are extended in the northern and southern frontiers of the country as well as the capital (Alvarado, 2009). However this humanitarianism and the demands of the church for changes in policy making in the name of migrants across media outlets has implications in the conflict, which this analysis also aims at exploring. Why did the church take on migrants plight and why has media been driven to focus greater attention to this aspect to represent the institution in the midst of the conflict? These are questions not easily answered, nonetheless Alvarado offers a possible answer by pointing out that under the theology of liberation, proposed in the 70’s, Mexican catholic church has increased its actions for the “unprotected” and also has pushed for a political incidence over state and governance regarding what should be done with Central American migrants threatened by violence. She adds that catholic advocacy (I would add media advocacy) also has the potential of surpassing frontiers. This is further achieved with the figure of migrants and their international dimensions. While government’s actions are limited to concepts of sovereignty and state boundaries, the transnational character of the church allows a greater presence in international and local public forums, while advocating for the respect of migrants’ human rights (Alvarado, 2009). Media advocacy led by the Catholic Church was encouraged in 2004 by Mexican bishops, who argued that the institution should “promote religious education in various settings and have greater media presence” (Hagopian, 2006). In order to follow this goal, the institution publishes print and digital media such as the weeklies “Desde la fé” or “ Semanario, among others, which
have become accessible to Mexicans and foreign readers through the Mexican Catholic Episcopate Informational System. 1 Some editions of Desde la fé” are cited and analyzed in mainstream media. Though the church is not allowed to own a media company in Mexico, the awakening in the use of technology, especially Internet, by religious groups in this decade has allowed religious media such as the Catholic media to reach broader audiences. At the same time the emergence of religious online platforms has come along with a renewed use of marketing, branding and public relations to further the church’s position in public spheres and has also provided avenues for the institution to provide an alternative discourse on Mexico and the conflict both locally and internationally (Moors, 2010). News Reports on the Catholic Church and Central American Migrants The following media analysis includes 2011 news reports published in US catholic media. I chose to study the National Catholic Reporter and the Catholic News Services given their constant references to the Mexican conflict, along with Central American migrants. These media outlets also quote information originally created for Mexican mainstream media. News stories in Mexican catholic media such as Desde La Fé and El Semanario as well as mainstream media such as La Jornada and Excelsior are a key component of this analytical exercise. Though I had some difficulties to access catholic media such as “Desde la Fe” online editions. In fact it was easier to access fragments of articles published in Desde la Fé through U.S. Catholic media as well as Mexican mainstream media. The average of Mexican mainstream articles on migrants, church and conflict is 1‐2 news reports per month. Initially I will use the Cristero war media practices as a framework to assess 2011 media coverage, followed by other specific aspects of Catholic media advocacy such as the case of Catholic Priest Alejandro Solalinde, and some criticisms to the church’s role as an migrant advocate and within the conflict. Each of these topics will be followed with examples found in the news. Both American and Mexican catholic media and Mexican Catholic media start many news reports either by explaining a statement made by a church representative, narrating the arduous journey of Central American Migrants in Mexico or/and the criminal actions against migrants by criminal gangs such as Los Zetas or even state bodies. However quotations of migrants 1 This is the link to the Information System of the Mexican Episcopate : http://www.siame.mx/apps/aspxnsmn/templates/?a=7&z=58
themselves are fewer and have less space than those dedicated to Catholic representatives. An August 2011 National Catholic Reporter (NCR) online article informs that two police officers were arrested after detaining a Guatemalan migrant and handing him to individuals accusing him of assault. Citing the Mexican newspaper Reforma, NCR adds, “Migrant Julio Cardona Agustín was beaten, struck with stones and was found dead” near St. Diego Migrant Shelter House. Afterwards Father Hugo Montoya, who runs another migrant shelter in the area, explains that the situation took place due to xenophobia. The article continues with Father Montoya’s narration about Cardona’s previous days to his fatal end. It remains unclear why the Father knew about the details of the case and the news report is only based on this version. In a December, 2011 Excelsior news report points out that boatman transporting migrants across San Pedro de Tenosique, in the Guatemalan‐ Mexican frontier, have allied with organized crime networks to kidnap, steal and physically assault undocumented Central Americans. The news report includes the testimonies of two migrants, who narrate in detail how these boatmen threatened them and how they achieved to escape. It also highlights the protection provided by the Migrant Shelter led by monk Tomás González. These two examples show how both Catholic Church and migrants are taken into account when sharing this population’s drama and therefore their figure can be considered as the “victims” of the conflict. While Catholic representatives are witnesses of the horrors lived by migrants, they are also portrayed through their life of sacrifice and, in some cases, of state persecution. Father Pedro Pantoja’s life and contributions is narrated in a June 2011 Excelsior article, which includes the portrait in the side, which is not a common element in the visual media narratives. Usually journalistic photos on site are used; instead this image follows the tradition of recent portraits of martyrs and saints. (Though this is my intuition after searching for Mexican martyrs portraits in Internet)2. The article describes how Father Pantoja overcame a childhood and youth in poverty, how he assisted prisoners with his mother and also his preparation as a priest. Finally the report narrates his work with migrants, the establishment of a shelter under his leadership and his assessment on 2 The Internet search carried for this media analysis can be found here: http://bit.ly/sI7rXh
a new modality of kidnaps of migrants. Several US catholic media and Mexican media report on the detention of Father Alejandro Solalinde, a renown activist for Central American migrants, while leading the caravan “ A step towards peace” with more than 500 hundred migrants. Reports argue that Solalinde was detained under the suspicion that one of his bodyguards had a long weapon. Both Amnesty International and the Mobility Pastoral of the Mexican Episcopate denounced the arrest. Solalinde was arrested one afternoon and shortly after local authorities apologized to Solalinde for the inconvenience. Other news reports refer to threats and persecution of criminal parties to catholic representatives. In a September, 2011 La Jornada article, the Executive Secretary of Human Mobility Pastoral of the Mexican Episcopate Conference states, “despite the increase in intimidation acts and threats against defenders of migrant rights, “pastoral agents are still standing and are not going to take a step back. In this way, these representatives are represented as martyrs for their life of sacrifice to the cause of migrants.” Pantoja, Solalinde, Montoya, among other priests, also denounce Government and DTOs actions. They also propose changes in government bodies and their actions as well as policies and laws concerning migrants. A July, 2011 National Catholic Reporter article informed that Father Pantoja questioned the new Mexican immigration law “would make much of difference and if the federal government truly wanted to fix the migration issue.” While a 2011 Excelsior news report focused on Solalinde’s argument against the Mexican National Institute of Migration (INM), because “it had been the best ally of the organized crime group Los Zetas in the kidnapping of undocumented in the southern states of the country. In the light of cases of corruption of INM staff, the priest argued that the organization had lost prestige in the face of citizens and migrants; therefore it was better for the INM to disappear. Another July 2011 Excelsior article includes Solalinde’s petitions to Congress on eliminating visas for Central American and South American born family members of disappeared migrants in Mexico. The same newspaper published in January a report based on the Catholic weekly “Desde la Fé”, which pointed out omissions of Mexican authorities “ who shine due to their irresponsible absence” regarding justice to migrants who have been victims of kidnappings and extortions. The common elements between the “Cristero war” and the current armed conflict such as media portrayal of victims, martyrs and the denunciations of the church regarding Government actions can also be explained through the concept of trinity proposed by Nietzsche. In fact, Gonzalez (1999) uses this concept to analyze the current state of Mexican Catholic Church (In this analysis we will use the trinity to further
understand the representations embedded in media discourse on the Catholic Church, migrants and the conflict. According to Nietzsche’s view, the trinity stands for a god that acts as tyrant, victim and savior. The trinity is a victim, because it carries others sins; tyrant, because it points out other’s sins; and savior, because saves others from their faults. Following this line of thought, media’s portrayal sheds light on how the Catholic Church by advocating for migrants and providing them shelters carries the faults or consequences of the acts that Government officials and DTOs have committed against this population, holding the position of “victim” or “martyr” (González). The church is a tyrant because it denounces the faults of state and criminal organizations against migrants, assesses when Government actions are working or not and proposes how the state can change its behavior through institutional changes or policymaking. Finally the institution acts as savior because no matter the grievances caused to migrants, the church still works to improve the situation of violence in which state and DTOs take part. Also the church is source of a sanctified world, while outside the Mexican territory lives in chaos. A June 2011 Catholic News Agency article reports that the Xalapa Archidiocese in Mexico warns that the abuse suffered by Central American Migrants traveling through Mexico is “an evident sign of societal decay”. The agency adds that the archdiocese thanked the priests, religious and laity who “as good Samaritans,” offer food, shelter and clothing “to those most in need.” To conclude, the holy trinity concept allows us to notice that the ideological thought of the Catholic Church underlies Catholic and mainstream media coverage on Central American migrants and the conflict. The case of Alejandro Solalinde The most outstanding catholic figure in media coverage is Father Alejandro Solalinde, who is usually included on reports about Central American migrants. He is the Director of the Shelter Brothers in the Road located in Ixtepec, Oaxaca and Coordinator of the Catholic Pastoral Care Centre for Migrants in southwestern Mexico. Solalinde is part of the list of “ individuals at risk” by Amnesty International, given that “gangs, officials and intolerant community have threatened his life” (Amnesty International, 2011). Solalinde’s portrayal differs between catholic media and mainstream media. The former just referring to his contributions and claims toward the Government, instead the latter refers to Solalinde’s controversial criticisms to the Catholic Church itself, the U.S., political parties, among others. A July 2011 Excelsior article is based on Solalinde’s considerations about the Catholic Church and its role to help migrants. He says, “ Referring to the Catholic Church, with its honorable exceptions, the institution has not really
cared about the situation of migrants, that is the sad reality. The institutions, dedicated to serve the human being, have become indifferent to people, they are not interested in anything, only in political favoritism.” Instead in a September 2011 Jornada report the priest’s opinion on U.S. policy is highlighted: “We are outraged regarding how the DEA, Pentagon and CIA are having their way here (Mexico), this is not a novelty; but the Mexican National Institute of Migration, through the Mérida Plan, is completely being used as an instrument for Washington in detriment of national sovereignty, but also in prejudice of our transmigrant brothers, who are cornered by Washington, who considers them as a danger and as persons unwanted in the U.S.” He has become such a prominent source that Mexican mainstream media ask for his opinion regarding political issues not directly related to his cause. An October 2011 Jornada report is based on Solalinde’s perspectives on the 2012 presidential elections. He proposes a national candidacy for the Presidency, however it should be isolated of political parties, who have lost credibility. Solalinde’s apology to los Zetas was the news that caused most polemic. A July 2011 Jornada article quotes the father asking forgiveness to “Los Zetas, criminals and all the brothers who we have failed and that are victims of a sick society that did not know how to provide them support, did not teach them values.” In a July 2011 Excelsior report, Solalinde argues that Los Zetas are “marginalized and victims of a corruption system.” In the article, the Government Subsecretary of Population, Migration and Religious Issues expressed his concern regarding Solalinde’s statements, which in his opinion give the impression of exalting violators and assassins, making them look as victims when they are criminals.” In this same month, another news report was published by Excelsior in which members of the Senate pointed out that there are thousands and thousands of victims left by Los Zetas, who carry the guilt of mutilating families, therefore Congress does not consider that these families would agree with Solalinde’s statement. Such is the influence of priests like Solalinde that their constant meetings with officials are also reported. An August, 2011 National Catholic Reporter article informed that Church officials had discussions with Tultitlan and Mexico state governments to find land for a new shelter. While a July 2011 Excelsior report informs that Solalinde will not continue to participate in the negotiations table carried by poet Javier Sicilia and businessmen Alejandro Marti, whose sons were murdered as part of the conflict, and Mexican President, Felipe Calderón. His reasons to leave the negotiation table consist in the denial of the Government regarding the facts and, that “ instead of helping, the Government is undermining the persons defending human rights.” An
August 2011 Excelsior article reports that Senators of the opposition received members of the caravan “Step by step toward peace”. Despite that the article mentions an event participating all caravan members, the claims made by Sicilia and Solalinde to the Senate are the only ones included. Another August 2011 Jornada article reports the agreement between the Migrant Secretary of the State of Michoacán and the Civil Association Brothers in the Road, led by Solalinde, to promote the respect for migrants’ rights and transforming their reality by the means of justice, opportunities and equality. The national section of newspaper Reforma includes an article about the International Detention Coalitions, along with an update on the encounter with mothers of disappeared Central American Migrants. Criticisms to the Role of the Catholic Church in the Conflict In the 2011 media analysis, there were some criticisms to the role of the Catholic Church in the conflict. Written by the author of the book The Last Narco: Inside the Hunt for El Chapo Malcolm Beith, the World’s Most Wanted Drug Lord, a January 2011 NCR article points out that the church hierarchy admitted that some of the “dirtiest and bloodiest” money in Mexico could well have been used to build chapels and other facilities. This was “immoral,” the church declared. “Nothing can justify allowing this sort of situation to occur.” However, Beith says, the papal Mexican nuncio did not denounce drug trafficker Ramón Arellano, who had visited the nuncio to receive his blessing. The priest never considered turning Arellano in, because “ this was a matter of conscience, my work as a priest is one thing, but to act as an authority is another.” Written by Ricardo Alemán, a September 2011 Excelsior Op‐ed questions how the church defends its particular interests in the context of the conflict. He asks, “What does it mean for the Mexican Episcopate Conference to require DTOs a truce in order for the parishioners to venerate the relics
of Pope John Paul II?” Regarding controversies related to the destination of public resources for activities related to the Catholic Church, the President of the Center of Studies of Religion in Mexico, Bernardo Barranco, warned in Jornada that the commission of officials travelling to assist to the beatification of laic Juan de Palafox and Mendoza carried in Borga of Osma, Spain misused public resources and Government time for this event. In a July 2011 Excelsior article senators are quoted saying that they are aware that the decision to close the shelter of San Luís de Potosí was made by the Catholic Church due to lack of space and a need for renovation. Still they contend that the state should not have accepted this decision and, instead had the obligation of providing the required resources. The most recent case of criticism came from Congress regarding an editorial published in Desde La Fé against the actions of the legislative branch. Congress members asked the Government to initiate a process against the publication due to its denigrating discourse against one of the state’s main bodies. A PRI senator, Enoé Uranga, claims the lack of power of the laic state in Mexico. He goes further to say that the Catholic Church and followers among other religious groups, hidden in its moral hypocrisy, are open to pressure and challenge elected powers by the people. Implications of media coverage of church and migrants for the conflict The media analysis shows how the Mexican Catholic Church is leveraging its prominence as a source, stemmed on its historical social and political position in the country, to speak about migrants frequently undergoing human rights abuses. The Catholic Church portrayal has emerged as the expert and the advocate of Central American migrants as most of the articles refer to representatives of the Catholic Church. The institution speaks out in order to engage in policymaking for migrant’s wellbeing, however there are no recognizable voices coming from migrants themselves. The lack of their voice might be explained by the fact that migrants usually are undocumented and are precisely the target of violent acts. However recent migration laws include the right to medical services, judicial bodies and also recognize the jurisdictional personality of legal migrants, according to international treaties signed by Mexico (Secretaría de Gobernación, 2011). Though there is a large amount of undocumented Central American migrants in Mexico, the passing of this law would make these migrants entitled to a voice given that by law their jurisdictional personality must be respected. The approval of this new law took place by the end of April, therefore a larger time frame of its application would be needed to
further evaluate whether migrants are stepping as advocates across media outlets. In the mean time organized crime will continue to refrain from committing violent attacks to the insitution’s representatives thanks to their image of “sanctity”, opening a door for them to be quoted by media. But one can wonder if the church were to be stricter with the actions of its parishioners by turning in people allied to the organized crime chain, the institution would have the same position of privilege to freely speak about current migration issues. An argument against this thought would be that the church’s representation in the public discourse consists in a civil society organization deepening and furthering the protections for migrants, instead of having a direct judicial or political involvement in the conflict. Many civil organizations in conflict prone areas draw this line and continue to keep a strong influence in the country, even when the conflict persists and illegal actors approach these organizations, without necessarily contributing financially to these civil society members. But this representation for the church and other civil society organizations is always problematic. At this point, the question regarding whether the Catholic Church can be portrayed as civil society arises. Walzer (1992) defines civil society as "dense network of civil associations promoting the stability and effectiveness of the democratic polity through both the effects of association on citizens habits of the heart and the ability of associations to mobilize citizens on behalf of public causes.” In this sense Foley (1996) questions whether interest groups or religious bodies should be included in the definition, due to their intermittent mobilization in pursuit of political goals. In my view the Catholic Church in Mexico should not be portrayed as part of civil society, because it is currently not promoting migrants as citizens bearing political agency and and it’s authority does not come from bottom up. But, in general, civil society is characterized to be a heterogeneous landscape, allowing a weave of organizations to call themselves in media or for journalists to call them as such. Based on the concept of “holy trinity” proposed by Nietzsche, fellow advocates or followers of the catholic migrant cause would rely on thoughts on the matter and whether the institution agrees their message relevant to be included in public discourse. At the same time given the highly catholic culture in Mexico, the considerations of the church have to be prioritized than those of migrants and even advocates from other religious groups. The portrayal as a civil society actor is also a source of dilemmas when there are public resources in between. As I previously showed, there is a public understanding, except from one article, that the state must support financially catholic related events and the church’s work towards migrants. But one could wonder whether other religious groups or civil society organiations
receive the same media treatment, when they are in need of financial support. If the church is considered as part of civil society, this status also implies another set of challenges in terms of media advocacy. Luyendick proposes that NGOs frame their messages through media in ways in which they can manage to keep support from international donors. In the case of the Catholic Church in Mexico, the church requires to uphold its public moral authority and support among its parishioners. A “positive public image” and having good public relations has become increasingly important, as recent scandals such as priests’ pedophilia cases, use of condom and aids, among others, have surfaced on media. Therefore the church will not enable media spaces to question the closing of migrant shelters, corruption and its nexus with the institution and the dilemma about its moral role to support all people, including drug traffickers, without bringing them to justice. This is predictable for any civil society organization, however in the case of the Catholic Church journalists refrain from doing tough critics as they follow traditional media practices in Mexico, established through historical milestones such as the Cristero War. Also, because commercial and mainstream media companies, due to economic interests, will not portray a point of view that can be unpopular among 90% of catholic believers and even the PAN Government, elected for two consecutive terms with support by the Catholic Church. On the other hand, migrants also follow the catholic discourse because there is definitely a trade off for them with the visibility of the Catholic Church. Migrants can use elements of the catholic imaginary such as migrants carrying a cross and the quotations of migrants in Catholic – ran shelters, among other examples. I did not find alternative media ran by migrants, as I did with the case of Nepali migrant workers in the Middle East. Therefore there might be potential for both migrants and the Catholic Church to lead migrant news outlets, with the church having a special role in endorsing migrant’s voices. In the light of security issues, their names and identities could not be revealed, but if they are part of the advocacy led by the church, their opinions could be referred as a migrant of a civil society group. Though security concerns might still refrain migrants to have an increased visibility as migrant workers in the Middle East. In this scenario, diaspora media from sending countries such as Guatemala, Honduras could be supported by civil society and, in this sense; the Catholic Church could also take a part of it. U.S. catholic media have also contributed to raise awareness on the issue, while I only found The New York Times and Al Jazeera only published one article regarding violence against Central American migrants. Nonetheless, US catholic media refer and repeat the stories already covered by
Mexican mainstream media. Media coverage on the Catholic Church, migrants and the conflict is not clear‐cut and, in fact, many contradictions can be found. First, mainstream media as well as catholic media follow the discourse of the “holy trinity”, but not in all circumstances. When Father Alejandro Solalinde asks forgiveness to Los Zetas, criticisms from officials and Congressmen arise. Still for them it is unrecognizable that the church is acting both as victim and tyrant, because it is carrying with the DTOs faults and asking for forgiveness, and at the same time it is pointing out the corrupted government and the system as the ones to blame. Secondly, it is very possible that Government officials meeting with Solalinde and other prominent figures such as business man Alejandro Martí are aware that these conversations will be part of media coverage. Implicitly these public acts are endorsing the figure of the Catholic Church as a governance pole above other actors and having a direct intervention in policymaking. Nonetheless, at the same time, editorials of Desde la Fé are criticized due to claims against the legislative branch. If the church has been acknowledged publicly as a permanent actor contributing to Mexican state governance, how can the Government refrain the institution from having a say in how governance is working in Mexico? Thirdly, media reports have focused on mass events advocating for migrants’ rights, such as caravans, at the same time these have reinforced the need for personalities throughout media coverage of the conflict. New Yorker writer and author of the book “The Years we were not happy: chronicles about the Mexican transition” Alma Guillermoprieto further explains this in a 2010 New Yorker article when she points out that “Mexican drug clans and organizations responsible for so much bloodshed have acquired a liking for public attention”, she adds, “ and the story, like the murders, is endlessly repetitive and confusing: there are the double‐barreled family names, the shifting alliances, the double‐crossing army generals, the capo betrayed by a close associate who in turn killed by another betrayer in a small town with an impossible name, followed by another capo with a double‐barreled last name who is betrayed by a high‐ranking army officer who is killed in turn.” From this quote, I understand that media stories have been framed according to certain personalities; accordingly the representatives of the church have not been the exception. All these entangled contradictions seem conflicting when thinking whether media can contribute toward peace building. A plethora of characters are included and each one plays separate roles. Luyendick argues that beyond contrasting the version of contending parties, an article should include pro‐peace organizations and opponents to government policies. In this
sense, the church would achieve to perform as the latter. In my perspective, for all dimensions of an issue related to the conflict, such as Central American migrants, to be covered in media, there is a need for media to become a platform for dialogue among all parties, not only the personalities, but those who have been marginalized and can have a crucial effect in the outcomes of the conflict. This “fair play” among sources is not easily attained within a state with a weak government and a nation with highly tense power relations. If this dialogue were to be possible, it would lead to creating open public spaces for media advocacy for migrants, instead of only registering the meetings between officials and catholic representatives. At this point I should clarify that mothers of disappeared Central American migrants have started to become other source of media attention, due to their public acts such as caravans and also with the support of international non‐profit organizations. This is definitely a sign towards a more inclusive approach by media. Greater visibility of migrants as political agents with access to justice and prosecution processes (illegal migrants can also bear political agency due to their categorization as vulnerable population by members of the international community) is required in order for them to not be subjected to the will and actions of any of the actors influencing the conflict. Finally, analyzed as a crisis, the conflict has allowed the reinforcement of relations among visible actors such as state and the Catholic Church, while the opportunity of challenging relations between state and migrants in the midst of the Mexican conflict is something I hope media explores in a near future. References Cornell, S “ Narcotics and Armed Conflict: Interaction and Implications”, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 30:3, 207‐227, October 2007. Osorio, J. “Dynamic and Structural Determinants of Drug Violence in Mexico”, paper presented at Stanford University “Violence, Drugs and Governance: Conference on Mexican Security in Comparative Perspective” Conference, October 2011. Carpenter, A. “ Beyond drug wars: Transforming factional conflict in Mexico”, Conflict Resolution Quarterly, July 2010. Guillermoprieto, Alma. “ The murderers of Mexico”. The New Yorker, October 2010. Retrieved from:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/oct/28/murderers‐ mexico/?pagination=false Serna, A. “ La calumnia es un arma, la mentira una fe”. Revolución y Cristiada: La batalla del espiritú público. Revista Cuicuilco, Vol. 14, Núm. 39, enero‐abril, 2007, pp. 151‐179
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Amnesty International. “ Protecting people at Risk: Father Alejandro Solalinde: Threatened for protecting vulnerable migrants”. Retrieved from: http://www.amnesty.ca/atrisk/index.php/father‐alejandro‐solalinde/?st=200 Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos “ Informe Especial sobre Secuestro de Migrantes en México”, February 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.cndh.org.mx/sites/all/fuentes/documentos/informes/especiales/2011_secmi grantes.pdf News articles La Jornada. Articles quoted were retrieved from: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2011/10/27/politica/023n1pol http://www.lajornadasanluis.com.mx/2011/07/26/pol1.php http://www.lajornadamichoacan.com.mx/2011/08/10/index.php?section=politica&article=005n1 pol http://www.lajornadasanluis.com.mx/2011/11/07/pol3.php http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2011/08/02/sociedad/033n2soc http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2011/07/30/politica/011n3pol http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2011/08/13/estados/028n1est http://www.lajornadamichoacan.com.mx/2011/08/10/index.php?section=politica&article=005n1 pol http://www.jornadaveracruz.com.mx/Noticia.aspx?ID=110918_142403_36 http://www.lajornadadeoriente.com.mx/2011/08/02/puebla/mun304.php http://www.lajornadamichoacan.com.mx/2011/08/10/index.php?section=politica&article= 005n2pol http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2011/11/09/politica/020n1pol http://www.lajornadasanluis.com.mx/2011/07/13/pol1.phpExcelsior. Articles quoted were retrieved from: http://www.excelsior.com.mx/index.php?m=nota&id_nota=756591 http://www.excelsior.com.mx/index.php?m=nota&id_nota=748329 http://184.108.40.206/index.php?m=nota&seccion=seccion-adrenalina&cat=2&id_nota=778385 http://www.excelsior.com.mx/index.php?m=nota&id_nota=757194 http://www.excelsior.com.mx/index.php?m=nota&id_nota=702415 http://www.excelsior.com.mx/index.php?m=nota&id_nota=704662 http://www.excelsior.com.mx/index.php?m=nota&id_nota=757717 http://www.excelsior.com.mx/index.php?m=nota&id_nota=757321 National Catholic Reporter. Articles quoted were retrieved from: http://ncronline.org/news/immigration-and-church/migrant-murder-comes-amid-rising-tensions- mexican-shelter http://ncronline.org/news/immigration-and-church/mexican-catholics-working-undocumented- migrants-welcome-new-law http://ncronline.org/news/immigration-and-church/migrant-workers-face-dangers-trying-find-work http://ncronline.org/news/global/mexicos‐drug‐war‐church‐caught‐storm