MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Violent drug gangs in Mexico, which kill thousands of people a year, fund the building of churches in impoverished villages to try to win over locals, a senior Catholic bishop said.
"They are very generous," Bishop Carlos Aguiar told a press conference, Reforma newspaper reported on Saturday.
Aguiar, who heads Mexico's Catholic bishops' conference, said drug traffickers pour money into poverty-stricken towns where the government lacks funds to build roads or provide electricity.
"The drug smugglers build things that mean a lot for these communities," he said. "Many times they will build a church or a chapel."
Aguiar said the Church does not condone drug trafficking and tries to use its influence to get gangsters to leave the trade.
"I'm not justifying it, I'm just saying how it is," he said.
More than 2,500 people died in Mexico last year in a war between rival cartels for control of smuggling routes to the United States. Cartel hitmen often torture, suffocate or behead rivals.
, obtained via: , April 4, 2008, 5:20pm