NEWS

Mexican priest to leave country after death threats

05/19/2012 10:29 EDT | Updated 07/19/2012 05:12 EDT

A Roman Catholic priest, who is one of Mexico's most outspoken advocates for migrant rights, is leaving his country after receiving death threats.

Rev. Alejandro Solalinde runs a shelter in Oaxaca for migrants who move through central Mexico on their way north to the United States.

Solalinde told reporters at a Mexico City news conference earlier this week that he has decided to leave the country temporarily because of orders from his superiors in the church, and because he's recently received a series of death threats.

The outspoken priest says he has witnessed an increase in the dangers associated with the trek, which is made mostly by Central Americans.

He said criminals and corrupt officials in Oaxaca work together with impunity to leave migrants as unprotected as possible.

Solalinde's Hermanos en el Camino shelter is located along a key point along a route used by migrants who move via Mexico's freight train network. He has documented and publicized cases of mass kidnappings of migrants and has worked closely with Central American organizations formed by relatives of persons who have gone missing while crossing Mexican territory. Kidnapping has turned into a multi-million dollar business there and migrants often end up killed.

Last year, he took the unusual step of publicly implicating the violent Zetas drug cartel in the kidnapping of migrants. He also criticized corrupt police.

Solalinde said he will use his time abroad to speak publicly about the dangers faced by migrants in Mexico.

A group of experts from the UN and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recently called on Mexico to approve a proposed law to defend human rights advocates.

Margaret Sekaggya, the United Nations special investigator for the treatment of human rights defenders, said such activists in Mexico "desperately need the state's effective protection now. "

"They continue to suffer killings, attacks, harassment, threats, stigmatization and other serious human rights violations," she said.

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