Gangs take church money from Mexican priests: bishop

Mexico City, Jan 21, 2013 (AFP) -Crime gangs have forced priests to handover their church donations in a sprawling Mexico City suburb, the area's bishop said on Monday.
Nezahualcoyotl Bishop Luis Morales told El Universal newspaper that priests have received anonymous phone calls from people demanding that they give up the alms donated by church-goers.
"We haven't had any deaths, but there has been psychological violence through extorsion," said Morales, whose diocese includes the city of Nezahualcoyotl and two others totalling 3.5 million people east of the capital.
At least 10 priests have handed money to gangs, he said. "There are a few priests who have given some money, others, thank God, were able to manage the situation," he added.
Priests are among the countless victims of extorsion in the relentless war between drug cartels that has engulfed Mexico in recent years.
More than 70,000 people have died in drug-related violence across the nation since 2006, when troops were deployed to crack down on the cartels.
The central state of Mexico, where Nezahualcoyotl is located, and the capital have been hit by a wave of violence in the last two weeks that has left almost 40 people dead.
While Mexico City authorities say the murders have nothing to do with drug gangs, state officials linked the violence to the growing presence of three cartels: the Zetas, La Familia Michoacana and a new gang named Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors).

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