by Gloria Leticia Diaz, for Proceso
April 17, 2012
English translation: Committee on U.S.-Latin American Relations (CUSLAR)
The priest Alejandro Solalinde Guerra, responsible for the Catholic Pastoral Care Center for Migrants in Southwestern Mexico (Pastoral de Movilidad Humana Pacífico Sur del Episcopado Mexicano), denounced death threats against him along with a lynching campaign against the Central American migrants who find refuge in the “Hermanos en el Camino” migrant shelter.
After attending the launch of the book “La Bestia” [The Beast] by independent journalist Pedro Ultreras, Solalinde explained that in the next days, the Dimensión Pastoral, to which he belongs, will determine whether to file legal denouncements for the threats he has received and that took place, seeing as he already has safety measures in place ordered by the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights (CIDH).
“There have been two death threats in less than 15 days. They come from the same source and are associated with the organized criminals, with people who want nothing to do with us and who are systematically against us. The gravity of this situation lies in the fact that Ixtepec’s local government doesn’t disassociate itself from these people”, testified Solalinde.
In an interview with Apro, Solalinde Guerra explained that this past Sunday, a neighbor from Ixtepec came to the shelter to warn him that a hitman had been hired to kill him.
He got that announcement one day after the dismembered body of a young man was found in the municipality, a murder that some people from the region claimed migrants were responsible for, to generate an atmosphere of animosity against them. However, Solalinde prevented that from happening.
The anti-immigrant Oaxacans “were very angry because I basically dismantled their made-up case against the migrants in front of the family of this boy. Two of them tried to attack me and others were waiting for me outside, screaming horrible things. I left the funeral surrounded by police, and they heard everything,” he said. He also noted that a person named Carlos Tirado heads the Grupo de Rescate Urbano [Group of Urban Recovery], which has the support of municipal authorities to “arrive at events before the police, because they have tapped the [police] radio frequency, and afterwards, they accuse the migrants of whatever misfortune takes place in the region. To discredit the migrants and those of us that help them, they collude with a newspaper in Juchitán named “Punto Crítico” [Critical Point], he added.
The most recent threat against Solalinde’s life happened last Sunday, April 15, after the priest confronted people who were insulting undocumented Central Americans who had come to seek respite at Solalinde’s shelter.
“We’re going to kill you,” shouted a group of men in a vehicle that had pulled up in front of the migrant shelter.
“I was welcoming the migrants into the shelter — there were 1,500 of them — when a car with no license plates shows up. They say it belongs to a doctor who’s from around here. All of a sudden there were three more people, and they started to insult the migrants and threaten them. I went out to defend them [the migrants]. Right away they came at me, insulting me, saying that I was a pollero [trafficker]. They told me they were going to kill me,” the priest said.
Solalinde is angered by the existence of constant “lynching campaigns” against migrants in the region, and he highlighted that the recent death threats are only the latest in the permanent threats he has suffered for defending migrants.
Along those lines, he mentioned two previous charges brought against him, initiated by authorities at the Mexican National Migration Institute (Instituto Nacional de Migración, INM), in which he has been accused of being a trafficker of minors and of abandoning migrants. Both charges were dropped for lack of evidence.
“There is a plan and a hitman hired to kill me,” the priest reiterated, and he noted that the safety measures ordered by the CIDH are being carried out by the state of Oaxaca [instead of federal police] because Solalinde does not trust the federal authorities.
“I would prefer to go it alone than be protected by the feds. Now at least I’m alive, but it’s clear to me that the one who’s really taking care of me is God,” Solalinde said.