Cardinal in Mexico Killed in a Shooting Tied to Drug Battle

Published: May 25, 1993

One of Mexico's two Roman Catholic Cardinals was shot to death today along with six other people when gunmen believed to be involved with drug traffickers opened fire outside the airport in the western city of Guadalajara, police officials said.

Details of the shooting were still sketchy tonight, but the police and Government officials said it appeared that the prelate, Juan Jesus Cardinal Posadas Ocampo, had been caught in a crossfire as he he sat in his car at the airport parking lot.

The shooting follows a series of increasingly public and violent attacks by drug traffickers as turf wars among regional smuggling groups have escalated. But if confirmed to be drug-related, the slaying would be the most shocking episode of its kind in this strongly Catholic country.

Catholic church officials have often been publicly critical of the drug trade and its effects on Mexican society. But their opposition has been moral rather than practical, and government officials said they thought it unlikely that Cardinal Posadas was deliberately murdered.

President Carlos Salinas de Gortari flew to Guadalajara tonight to show his concern. On his arrival, he denounced the shooting as "a criminal act" against innocents, but did not mention narcotics traffickers.

An official of the federal Attorney General's office in Guadalajara, Lieut. Francisco Corona Garcia, said that about 20 armed men had arrived at the airport parking lot in three large jeep-like vehicles about 4:10 P.M. and started shooting. According to some local news reports, Cardinal Posadas, the 66-year-old Archbishop of Guadalajara, was arriving to meet the visiting Papal Nuncio, Msgr. Girolamo Prigione, at the airport. But other reports said he had come from seeing Monsignor Prigione in Mexico City.

Lieutenant Corona said of the gunmen, "It appears that they were drug traffickers." But neither he nor other officials made it clear how thay had arrived at that conclusion.

Radio reports from the scene said the Cardinal's car, a white 1993 Grand Marquis, was riddled with 26 bullet holes, and that his driver was also killed. Another car in the parking lot was said to have been hit 20 times.

Lieutenant Corona said the gunmen all appeared to have run away after the shooting. Although the airport is in an isolated area about half an hour's drive southwest of the center of Guadalajara, only two suspects were captured, the authorities said.