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Authorities work at the scene of a mass shooting in the Mexican state of Guanajuato Dec. 17, 2023. (OSV News photo/Juan Moreno, Reuters)

(OSV News) -- A Mexican bishop has called for people not to be indifferent after the massacre of a dozen young people at a Christmas party in one of the country’s most violent states.

Gunmen burst into the party Dec. 17 at a former hacienda in the central state of Guanajuato, killing 12 people and leaving 10 injured, according to local media. The state prosecutor’s office later confirmed the death toll in the municipality of Salvatierra in a short post on X, but provided no other details. The newspaper Reforma reported the victims were between ages 17 and 35.

Bishop Enrique Díaz Díaz of Irapuato urged people to avoid indifference in the face of such atrocities, which have occurred with disturbing regularity in Guanajuato -- a state rife with drug cartel conflicts. He also took issue -- indirectly -- with government officials downplaying violence or claiming that violence mostly takes the lives of people involved with organized crime.

“It’s worrisome and the most worrisome thing is that we are getting used to it, and that these massacres sometimes happen with indifference in front of us and sadly in front (of) the authorities who justify and politicize these massacres (while) no recognition is made of the seriousness of this situation that we are experiencing,” Bishop Díaz said Dec. 17, according to Guanajuato newspaper Correo.

“We cannot minimize violence. We cannot justify it and we cannot say that it doesn’t directly impact us.”

“We cannot minimize violence. We cannot justify it and we cannot say that it doesn’t directly impact us,” Bishop Díaz continued. “It is very painful when we approach the family members of those who have died. We cannot give them words of consolation to tell them that it is only some percentage (of people killed), that it is not what they perceive. Even if only one person falls victim to violence, it is very painful and we have to recognize it.”

Violence has consumed Guanajuato state -- which Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2012 -- over the past decade as drug cartels dispute a lucrative illegal business in siphoning gasoline from pipelines operated by state-run oil company Pemex.

The state has long been considered Mexico’s Catholic heartland -- which gave rise to the Cristero Rebellion, in which clergy and laity took up arms against church persecution nearly a century ago -- and more recently has boomed economically as automotive plants have moved in.

Bishop Díaz’s comments come in the aftermath of the murder of five medical students in the city of Celaya. Speaking at his morning press conference after the murders Dec. 6, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador alleged the students were purchasing drugs -- a claim flatly denied by the mother of two of the victims.

López Obrador expressed condolences to the families of the victims of the Salvatierra massacre. But he repeated the claim of high drug use in Guanajuato.

On Dec. 18, López Obrador expressed condolences to the families of the victims of the Salvatierra massacre. But he repeated the claim of high drug use in Guanajuato.

“It’s a complex matter because it does not happen throughout the country,” López Obrador said. “There are regions where if there’s more drug consumption, there’s more violence and more homicides and we have to see why in Guanajuato.”

Analysts, however, say the president has no evidence to make such claims after he scrapped a national survey on addictions.

Falko Ernst, senior Mexico analyst at the International Crisis Group, pointed to a tendency of the president to portray problems in states where his party performs poorly in issues of “social” and “moral disintegration,” while failing -- like his predecessors -- to articulate and implement a sound security strategy.

“This boils down to blaming the victims, turning the attention from state responsibility for these sorts of acts and to empty words,” Ernst told OSV News. “The focus is really on public relations rather than trying to resolve violence through sound measures on the ground.”

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