Pope slams corruption in Mexico

  • 14/02/2016
Pope Francis waves to the crowd on his way to celebrate mass at the Guadalupe's basilica in Mexico City (Reuters)
Pope Francis waves to the crowd on his way to celebrate mass at the Guadalupe's basilica in Mexico City (Reuters)

Pope Francis has launched a broadside against endemic corruption on his first visit to Mexico as pontiff, calling on President Enrique Pena Nieto and his government to combat it.

Corruption is deeply ingrained in Mexico, and Pena Nieto, his wife and finance minister have all been embroiled in conflict of interest scandals involving homes purchased from government contractors.

Drug-trafficking gangs have infiltrated police forces across the country and more than 100,000 people have been killed in drug violence over the last decade. Some 26,000 are missing.

"Experience teaches us that each time we seek the path of privilege or benefits for a few to the detriment of the good of all, sooner or later the life of society becomes a fertile soil for corruption, the drug trade, the exclusion of different cultures, violence and also human trafficking, kidnapping and death," the Pope said in a speech to Pena Nieto, the government and foreign diplomats on Saturday (local time).

He said Mexico's leaders have a "particular duty" to move past corruption and violence and work for the collective good.

From the US border to the indigenous south, Francis will visit some of Mexico's poorest and most violent corners on his five-day trip.

Mexico is the world's second most populous Roman Catholic country and hundreds of thousands of people are expected to join the Pope on Saturday afternoon in a Mass at Mexico City's basilica for the country's patroness, the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Carrying pictures of the Pope and the Virgin of Guadalupe, and wrapped up against the winter chill, thousands converged on Mexico City's historic centre as the Pope addressed the government at the presidential palace.

"We want him to demand that the president kick out all the corrupt people," said Marbella Vargas, whose son Edgar was one of 43 students abducted and apparently massacred in 2014, a grisly case that hammered the government's reputation.

During his visit, the Pope will say Mass with indigenous communities in Mexico's poorest state Chiapas, and speak with young people in Morelia, the capital of Michoacan state that has been plagued by violence between drug gangs and armed vigilante groups.