MEXICO CITY (CNS) — A Mexican priest known for sheltering undocumented Central American migrants — and defying organized criminal groups and corrupt politicians — has withdrawn from his work temporarily due to threats, but says he will return.
News of the threats came the same day officials in the northern state of Nuevo Leon found 49 dismembered bodies stuffed into plastic bags — bodies they feared could be undocumented migrants transiting Mexico.
Father Alejandro Solalinde, director of the Brothers of the Road shelter in Oaxaca state, has been threatened and will remain away from the facility he founded for the next two weeks, said Scalabrini Sister Leticia Gutierrez, director of the Mexican bishops’ human mobility ministry.
Sister Leticia told Catholic News Service May 15 that Father Solalinde would take advantage of a previously scheduled trip abroad, which coincided with the latest threat — and not abandon his ministry or run from the situation, as some media outlets reported.
Shelter operations would not be impacted by his absence, Sister Leticia said.
Father Solalinde’s situation reflects ongoing difficulties for church workers who try to protect migrants passing through Mexico from risks such as kidnapping and robbery; many of those workers have been threatened.
Sister Leticia said Father Solalinde has been threatened six times and now travels with a security detail. Oaxaca state police guard his shelter.
News of Father Solalinde’s troubles followed the discovery of 49 bodies dumped May 13 in the municipality of Cadereyta Jimenez, about 100 miles from the U.S. border at McAllen, Texas.
The massacre marked the third atrocity of its kind to be committed in Mexico over a 10-day period.
Security analyst Alejandro Hope attributed the spate of mass slayings to rival drug cartels, the Sinaloa cartel and Los Zetas, carrying out a turf war and taking the battle to each other’s territories.
Nuevo Leon security officials say the massacre there mostly likely involved Los Zetas, which is powerful in northeastern Mexico and is known to kidnap migrants.
Sister Leticia said she suspects some of the victims are Central American migrants. The highway where the bodies were found is a known migrant route to the U.S. border, and the flow of migrants from Central America has been on the increase since before Christmas, she said.
Staff from the human mobility ministry are checking with shelter operators and migrant groups in Central America to determine if migrants are missing, Sister Leticia said.