September 24, 2:36 PM EDT
BY CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN ASSOCIATED PRESS
MEXICAN CARTELS REACHING FARTHER INTO U.S.
POZA RICA, Mexico (AP) -- In this eastern Mexican oil town already weary of rising gangland violence and extortion, the abduction and murder of two priests this week sank many residents only deeper into despair.
The killings in Poza Rica, in the troubled Gulf state of Veracruz, also came at a moment of heightened tension between the Roman Catholic Church and Mexico's government.
Church leaders are increasingly frustrated by authorities' inability to protect their priests under President Enrique Pena Nieto's administration, and the church is openly opposing his proposal to legalize gay marriage by encouraging the faithful to join demonstrations around the country.
"This, in combination with the recent protests of gay marriage coordinated by the church, I think we're seeing a new low point in the relationship between the church and the PRI," said Andrew Chesnut, chairman of Catholic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, referring to Pena Nieto's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party. "I think the overarching picture is that ... the open-season on priests has just proliferated with the intensification of the drug war."