Mexico warns church on drug-tainted money

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A spokesman for President Vicente Fox on Tuesday warned that no one may accept illegal funds, responding to a Roman Catholic bishop’s statement that the church has no obligation to investigate whether donations come from drug trafficking.

The exchange between church and state officials came the week after Pope Benedict XVI lamented that Mexican society was troubled by corruption, drug trafficking and organized crime, during a meeting with bishops from northern and central Mexico at the Vatican.

“At no time, under no condition, may anyone receive illegal money,” said Fox spokesman Ruben Aguilar. “No one may in this way aid in the laundering of money, and nobody can be in favor of organized crime acting with impunity.”

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Aguilar was responding to comments made Monday by Roman Catholic Bishop Ramon Godinez, of the central state of Aguascalientes, who said that donations linked to drug trafficking are not out of the ordinary — and that it’s not the church’s responsibility to investigate their origin.

“If they have money, they have to spend it; I don’t know why such a scandal has been made of this,” Godinez said in a follow-up interview with the Televisa television network Tuesday. “If a drug trafficker gives, we are not going to investigate if he’s a trafficker or not.

“Let me explain: We live on this, on the offerings of the faithful. And we do not investigate where they acquired the money.”

On Monday, the bishop said money can start out being dirty but “can be transformed” when it enters the church, Mexican news media reported.

Church officials could not be reached directly for comment Tuesday.

Mexican Attorney General Daniel Cabeza de Vaca downplayed the bishop’s comments.

“I don’t interpret it as a confession,” Cabeza de Vaca said. “There is no clear intention of money laundering. … What the bishop said is that they could be receiving money from drug trafficking.”

Pope Benedict XVI last week described the danger posed to Mexican society by drug trafficking and corruption.

“All this leads to various forms of violence, indifference and contempt for the inviolable value of life,” the pope said.

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AP, via, USA
Sep. 21, 2005

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