By Edward V. Byrne for The Yucatan Times
July 22, 2011
Wikileaks, an international news leaker and whistleblower, claims that prominent Mexican Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iñiguez personally solicited help from the United States government in March 2006 in an effort to defeat leftist political candidates in Mexico and Latin America. The archdiocese of Guadalajara, where Sandoval serves as archbishop, quickly denied the allegations. The Wikileaks story was published July 11, but was not reported in the Mexican press until today (July 22).
The latest Wikileaks claims may prove embarrassing to the Church hierarchy in this overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country, where in theory political and clerical authority are strictly segregated. The story could also put added pressure on strained relations between Mexico and the United States, already suffering under the blow of the “Fast and Furious” arms scandal in which U.S. agents allowed the sale of military assault weapons to Mexican drug cartels in an effort to track their operations. Adding to the tension, the former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, who had long enjoyed the confidence of both capitals, was forced to resign his post earlier this year after Wikileaks disclosed critical remarks he made about Mexico’s drug fighting efforts in secret Washington-bound diplomatic cables. The comments angered Mexico and complicated its drug war partnership with the U.S.
According to the July 11 Wikileaks story, in March 2006 Cardinal Sandoval and Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes approached the then U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, Francis Rooney, in Rome. Sandoval allegedly expressed concern about the “rising presence” of left-leaning leaders in Latin America, naming, among others, Fidel and Raul Castro in Cuba, Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Eva Morales in Bolivia and Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico. At the time López Obrador had just completed a five year term (2000-2005) as Governor of the Federal District of Mexico, and was running as the 2006 PDR candidate for president. He lost the race to Mexico’s current PAN president Felipe Calderon by one-half of one percent, in an election still viewed as rigged by many López-Obrador supporters. PRD, the Revolutionary Democratic Party, is the most left-wing of Mexico’s three major political parties and currently enjoys the least popular support.
According to the Wikileaks story, which was based upon stolen U.S. diplomatic cables, Sandoval allegedly told ambassador Rooney that López Obrador would lead Mexico in a “dangerous direction,” and that violent crime had increased in Mexico City during his term as the federal district’s leader.
Church authorities in Guadalajara condemned the report today, characterizing it as a deliberate attempt to damage the “social and political climate” of the country. “We have no doubt that this lie is intended to damage Mexico, the Catholic Church and the individuals involved,” the archdiocese replied. While admitting that Cardinal Sandoval did meet with the then ambassador, Church authorities claim that the sole purpose was to solicit private economic support for the construction of a religious sanctuary.
Asked if Cardinal Sandoval harbored either anti-López Obrador or anti-leftist feelings, the archdiocese replied that “the Cardinal . . . has no interest in intervening in or involving himself in the political affairs of the country.” Church participation in any form of politics is strictly forbidden under Mexican law. Curiously, López Obrador himself remained passive about the disclosures, stating that “the Catholic hierarchy values the efforts of the Left, which are necessary for political debate in the country, although it does not always agree with our positions.” The U.S. State Department has not commented on the matter or acknowledged the authenticity of the diplomatic cables upon which the latest Wikileaks claims are based.
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