Pope Francis urges Mexico: Fight corruption, drug violence

Pope Francis holds a skullcap given to him by a faithful as he arrives to lead the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican February 3, 2016. REUTERS/Max Rossi

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexicans should battle against corruption and grisly drug gang violence, Pope Francis urged on Wednesday, just days before he is set to make his first tour of some of Mexico’s most violence-scarred regions as pontiff.

Blighted by endemic corruption and cartel violence that have killed well over 100,000 people in the past decade, Mexico is still grappling with the fallout of conflict of interest scandals enveloping President Enrique Pena Nieto’s government.

The fate of 43 students abducted and apparently massacred in late 2014, a crime that sent shock waves through Mexico and around the world, is still shrouded in mystery after authorities failed to solve the case.

“The Mexico of violence, the Mexico of corruption, the Mexico of drug trafficking, the Mexico of cartels, is not the Mexico our Mother wants,” the Pope said in video released by the Vatican in response to a series of questions submitted by the public. He was referring to Our Lady of Guadalupe, who Roman Catholics venerate as the patroness of Mexico.

“Of course I don’t want to cover up any of that, on the contrary, I exhort you to fight every day against corruption, against trafficking, against war, against division, against organized crime, against human smuggling.”

During his five-day visit starting Feb. 12, the Pope will lead Mass with the indigenous community in Mexico’s poorest state Chiapas, speak with young people in Morelia, capital of violence-wracked Michoacan state, and end with a large Mass in border town Ciudad Juarez, which once had one of the world’s highest murder rates. [ID:nL1N1410J9]

Reporting by Philip Pullella Writing by Christine Murray and Simon Gardner Editing by W Simon