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Organized Crime

Pope to visit Mexican state hit by narco-violence: 'You are living your little piece of war'

When Pope Francis visits the western state of Michoacan next Tuesday, he will step into a plaza that holds the memory of one of the drug war’s most heinous acts of violence.

On Sept. 15, the eve of Mexican Independence Day in 2008, throngs of revelers had crowded the plaza in the state capital of Morelia when two grenades exploded, killing eight people, wounding hundreds and introducing an indiscriminate style of narco-terrorism that plagues the country to this day.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed or disappeared across Mexico in recent years, forming a map of violence that stretches from the jungles of Chiapas to the U.S. border. But few Mexican states...