The Accidental Martyr

May 27, 1993

Juan Jesus Posadas Cardinal Ocampo was the third prince of the Catholic Church murdered in this century. The cardinal archbishop of Zaragoza was ambushed by Spanish anarchists in 1923 during conflict between church and state. The cardinal archbishop of Brazzaville was murdered in tribal violence and anarchy in the Congo in 1974. In addition, the archbishop of El Salvador was assassinated by a rightist hit man in 1980.

Unlike them, Cardinal Ocampo was not a martyr to his faith. Mexican police believe he was an accidental bystander in a drug turf war, as innocent of the vicious quarrel that killed him as a babe on a Baltimore stoop slain in turf wars between rival corner drug distributors.

These gangs don't shoot straight. They use military weapons more valued for power than precision. Cardinal Ocampo took 14 slugs in the chest from high-powered weapons. He was one of six slain and his car was one of 20 caught in the cross-fire between rival Guadalajara drug cartels. Whatever their reason for making the Guadalajara airport a battleground, spilling out into the parking lot, his reason for being there was to confer with the papal nuncio on arranging a welcome in Mexico for Pope John Paul in August.

The Guadalajara drug cartels are a nasty bunch. One of them arranged the kidnap and torture murder of the U.S. drug enforcement agent, Enrique Camarena, in 1985, that has bedeviled Mexican-American relations and justice ever since.

So it is the narco-businessmen and their terrorist employees who are responsible for the cardinal's death. And the corrupt Mexican officials who looked the other way and let them flourish. And the Americans of all classes, ages, races and conditions of life who pretend that their patronage of illicit drugs is their own business, a mere health problem (if that), a crime without victims which is harmless to others.

The decline of safety and civility on the North American continent has been remarked before. The carnage at Guadalajara airport is remarkable only for the distinction of one of the accidental victims. Nothing more. Until the curse of illegal narcotics is confined and channeled, if not ended, we can expect only more of the same. Don't belittle Mexico. It could have happened here.

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