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    Saturday, June 10, 2006

    Mexico is different

    Maybe if we remember that less than 100 years ago, they were shooting Priests in the street, it makes more sense.


    President Vicente Fox's conservative National Action Party, or PAN, is known for its strong ties with the Catholic Church and both he and his administration, especially Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal, have been criticized for making public religious gestures and statements.

    The group alleged that several Catholic priests recently have intervened illegally in politics, including one who allegedly urged parishioners to vote against Patricia Mercado of the small Alternative Social-Democratic Party, and another who advised the church community to vote against the leftist Democratic Revolution Party in recent Mexico state elections.

    The Observatory group also said it believes the risk of the church's influence on the elections is greater this year – in part because of the church's strong connection with the Fox administration. The president has been criticized for publicly kissing the ring of the late Pope John Paul II during the pontiff's last visit to Mexico, and for using the Virgin of Guadalupe, the country's most revered religious image, during his election campaign.

    The church's own current campaign to get Catholics to vote – which the group said is unmonitored by Mexico's independent electoral agency – and private visits by candidates to the Mexican Council of Bishops "are other indications of the Catholic hierarchy's intentions to strongly influence these elections," the group added in a news release.

    Increasing the risks of church influence, observatory members said, is that 43 percent of the Mexican population does not know about the legal separation of religion and politics. The organization did not say how it arrived at that statistic, which could not be confirmed independently.

    Cruz called on parishioners to monitor and denounce illegal church influence and invited all Catholics "to choose the candidates for their deeds and proposals ... and for their ability to govern and legislate, not because they argue that they are Catholics."


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