A drug gang warned its rivals to keep the peace during a papal visit to Mexico next month in banners hung around the central state of Guanajuato which Pope Benedict XVI is due to visit.
The warnings, signed by the the Knights Templar gang, were quickly removed Tuesday and came shortly after the local archdiocese made a plea to drug gangs to avoid violence during the pope’s visit.
The banners claimed the Knights Templar gang had accepted a truce and would not permit violence from their rivals.
“We want a peaceful Guanajuato so don’t think about generating violence, especially during the arrival of his holiness Benedict XVI. You are warned,” said one banner which appeared Monday, according to a police officer who requested anonymity.
Asked about the warnings, Interior Minister Alejandro Poire on Tuesday told a news conference: “There will be security based on the rule of law in Guanajuato.”
The pope is due to travel to three cities of Guanajuato state between March 23 and 26, before traveling to Cuba.
The Knights Templar are a pseudo-religious gang from the neighboring state of Michoacan, where they are blamed for drug violence.
The “New Generation” gang, believed to be allied with the powerful Sinaloa drug gang, and the brutal Zetas also operate in the region.
On January 22, Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago, archbishop of Leon city in Guanajuato, called for peace among drug gangs during the pope’s visit.
More than 50,000 people have died in rising drug violence across Mexico in the past five years, according to media counts, amid a military crackdown on organized crime.