Coppola offered a mass in the town of Aguililla as a show of solidarity with the town’s residents, who were largely cut off from the outside world after warring cartels closed the streets.
He and the inhabitants walked the streets of Aguililla with an image of Christ, to symbolically reclaim the streets where dozens of bodies have been left in recent months, some of them beheaded.
“These streets that had been occupied by violence have been traveled by people who have joyfully followed Christ,” Coppola said. “This city has not been destroyed. Clearly, he suffered severe blows, but he was not crushed. “
“I found the best I could hope to find,” Coppola said of the trip, which winds its way through dangerous roads that until recently had been blocked by makeshift trenches and hijacked vehicles. “The best I could was that the people didn’t leave the city.”
Thousands of residents have been forced to flee cities in states such as Michoacán and the neighboring state of Guerrero after their communities were captured in the midst of cartel battles.
Bishop Cristóbal Ascencio García, whose diocese of Apatzingán includes Aguililla, prayed for the conversion of the cartel gunmen who made normal life in the city impossible.
“Let us make this communion with faith, asking God for the gift of peace, the gift of conversion for all of us, the gift of conversion for my brothers who are involved in bad things, who have taken the wrong path and are drug addicts”, Ascencio García said.
Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said earlier this week that drug cartels attacked police or soldiers with explosives-laden drones in a village near Aguililla and at least two other states. The latest attack wounded two policemen, one in the arm and one in the leg. The officers were treated and released from a hospital.
Cresencio Sandoval said the drone strikes were “troubling” but not as effective as the cartels might wish because their light devices cannot carry enough explosives to do significant damage.
Authorities did not describe the devices in detail. Local media reported that drones were carrying hand grenades, but photos of drones carrying packs of explosive charges circulated.
The Jalisco New Generation cartel is fighting for control of the area against the rival New Michoacán family, which is allied with Viagras or United Cartels. Located near the Pacific coast, Aguililla is a key point in smuggling routes and is also home to iron ore mines that provide drug cartels with extortion money.
State police and soldiers were dispatched to restore order earlier this month; the signs responded by parking hijacked trucks along the roads to block them. The Michoacán cartel also dug trenches along the roads to keep out the gunmen of Jalisco.
The Jalisco Cartel is also fighting territory wars in Guanajuato and its home state of Jalisco, the other two states where explosive drones have been used.