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

Mexican Federal District authorities announced late last month the detainment of David Romo GuillĂ©n, 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 IvĂłn CortĂ©s, 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 MĂ©xico, Jan. 14; Latin America News Dispatch, Jan. 6)

See our last post on Mexico’s crime wars

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