Before the Mexican people propelled anti-corruption crusader Andrés Manuel López Obrador to the presidency in a landslide, the country’s national elections were marred by unprecedented political violence. In the span of nine months, 132 politicians were murdered in Mexico, including 48 candidates for office.

Because these murders are rarely solved, it’s impossible to know what, exactly, motivates them. But Salvador Rangel, a Catholic bishop in the state of Guerrero (a hot spot in the transnational heroin trade), has a pretty good idea.

Over the years, Rangel has met privately with capos from the cartels that dominate the region, and that’s given him insight into how political battles are fought and won in Guerrero and all over the country.

“It’s in the interest of the mafias and the drug traffickers to install politicians in public office to their liking,” Rangel told VICE News. It’s no surprise, then, that rival syndicates would fight over political territory as they do over any other asset — and the politicians themselves are often willing participants. “Many politicians — their godfathers are the narcos. They’re the ones who fund their campaigns. And that explains why so many narcos are so well protected.”

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