Mexico: leader of “Santa Muerte” cult detained on kidnapping charges

Mexican Federal District authorities announced late last month the detainment of David Romo Guillén, leader of the “Traditional Catholic Church” that is also known as Santa Muerte, or “Saint Death.” Romo was arrested with eight other members, including his wife Ivón Cortés, on charges of kidnapping and extortion in Mexico City. Prosecutors claim Romo and his accomplices disguised themselves as members of Los Zetas narco-gang to kidnap two elderly people for ransom. All nine were placed under a form of house arrest for 30 days pending investigation.

Romo, who says he was tortured by Federal District police, maintains his innocence, and charges his arrest was a political stunt. “In this pre-election time, they are moving [against] a lot of innocent people, to fill their quotas,” Romo said, adding that he didn’t even know some of the other eight suspects, the Washington Post reports.

Saint Death has a reputation as the patron of drug traffickers. But Eva Aridjis, director of the documentary La Santa Muerte, told the New York Times: “While it is true that narcos and thieves and others worship her, not everyone who worships her is a criminal. What I encountered was many sick people or people who were in danger of dying or lived in dangerous environments. Drug addicts and prostitutes but also policemen and taxi drivers.”

The anti-kidnapping unit of the Federal District Prosecutor General, which carried out the arrest, denied the charges of torture, and pledged full transparency in the case. (El Sol de México, Jan. 14; Latin America News Dispatch, Jan. 6)

See our last post on Mexico’s crime wars

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