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Mexico—A Light at the End of the Tunnel, Part 1

October 3, 2016 by Janelle P in Latin America/Caribbean

Unexpected help from a group of pastors came to the once-peaceful town of Guadalupe. Until the beginning of the 21st century, the 700,000 inhabitants of this city in the metropolitan area of Monterrey and the state of Nuevo León, worked in industry and trade largely unconcerned with the violence taking place in other areas of the Mexican Republic. In spite of the Guadeloupians’ desire to stay away from the rising wave of insecurity washing over the country, they soon started experiencing the first symptoms.

The small-time criminals that previously swarmed around the outskirts of the area organized themselves into gangs and began causing trouble all over the city. The police did not intervene as the violence escalated. In the beginning, their activity mostly consisted of petty theft, but as their confidence grew, the crimes became more and more daring and violent. Within a short time, the so-called Zetas and Cártel del Golfo made Guadalupe the site of their illegal activities. With links to drug trafficking and terrorism, and a paramilitary structure that integrated the local mafia into a larger framework of organized crime, their main activities were the illegal trafficking of drugs, extortion, kidnapping, fuel theft, and murder.

The situation had become so fragile by 2011 that these gangs were fighting all over the city, spreading terror among the inhabitants. The police department had also been deeply infiltrated by these groups, making the police officers more dangerous than the drug traffickers themselves. The almost 900 officers in Guadalupe were under constant suspicion from the public. “It was truly dangerous to leave the house after a certain time, because if you weren’t a victim of the criminals, you could fall into the hands of corrupt police,” explained Mexican cinematographic producer Joselo Gloria. “This led the recently elected town authorities to look for someone who could clean up the police department, which was the first stage for reestablishing order.”

In April 2011, Mayor Ivonne Álvarez García contracted retired army Colonel, Enrique Sanmiguel Sánchez, who was working as Chief of Preventative Police in Cancun. Sanmiguel took on the challenge, eager to make a difference. “I knew that I was facing a difficult test, but I was interested in helping people,” said Sanmiguel. “The police in Guadalupe didn’t respect the human rights of the citizens who had already become accustomed to the thefts and kidnappings. People were not surprised by anything that they saw in the street and were just as scared of Zetas as they were of the police.”

When Sanmiguel took over the Ministry of Public Security in Guadalupe, he announced that he would not allow the smallest error among his subordinates. To ensure that things would change, he brought in three of his own men, all ex-military, to fill important leadership positions, including Director of Police. In barely a week, eight out of ten police officials stepped down from their positions voluntarily. Sanmiguel invented bogus operations to catch criminals who were leaking the information. In just a few days, 56 agents were dismissed due to a breach of trust. Within a few months, 860 members had been fired on suspicions of corruption

“We were left with barely 40 officers for a city of 700 thousand people,” explained Sanmiguel. “Half of them worked on one 12-hour shift and the other half on the following one. I know that it seems crazy, but it was the only option; we couldn’t afford to have anyone linked to the drug cartels. We were like that until mid-2012 when we contracted 300 new agents.” The majority of the newly hired police officers were ex-military. “In the army they teach values like honor, loyalty, courage, obedience and discipline. It’s not that these values don’t exist in the police, but they are certainly not as deep-rooted. A soldier is capable of giving his life for his colleagues,” said Sanmiguel.

Like Gideon and his army in the Bible, Sanmiguel and his agents were reduced to astonishingly small numbers pitted against a formidable foe. In the midst of these seemingly insurmountable challenges, God raised up a unexpected ally. They had already been working in Guadalupe for several months when Sanmiguel received a surprise visit from a group of Protestant pastors. Although their initial intention was to take the Word of God to the prisoners, their purpose soon expanded to include praying with the security officers who went out onto the streets to confront armed groups. “We found a shield of protection in prayer,” said Florencio Santos Hernández, who, as the new Chief of Police in Guadalupe, launched attacks on several threats. And the help of the pastors was to prove essential in the struggle ahead.

Next week we will discover the results of this unexpected alliance against the darkness engulfing Guadalupe.

Thank You, Father, for his group of pastors who have boldly intervened in prayer. We pray for the light of Your gospel to bring not only earthly peace in the town of Guadalupe, but also true peace that leads to repentance and saving faith—reconciliation with You that they might be children of the One True and Living God. We pray for the work of Your church in Guadalupe, and indeed in all of Mexico, as they seek to bring the light of the gospel to those who are lost in spiritual darkness. It is in the name of Jesus we pray, that His name might be glorified in all the earth! Amen.

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