|11/8/2012 12:17:00 PM|
Priest denounces gang attack on Mexican migrant shelter
Catholic News Service
Priests pose for a picture with the leaders of the gang known as MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, and their archenemies of the Barrio 18 gang, during the Day of the Virgin of Mercy celebrations at the women's prison in San Salvador. El Salvador, Sept. 24.
Catholic News ServiceMEXICO CITY — A prominent Catholic priest has denounced an attack on an improvised shelter for migrants by members of the Mara Salvatrucha, the gang founded by Central Americans and known for its tattooed appearances and acts of cruelty.
Father Pedro Pantoja told a Mexico City gathering Nov. 6 that the incident took place at a shelter in Huehuetoca, just beyond the northern outskirts of the national capital and along a railway line plied by Central American migrants on their northbound journeys toward the United States.
"I want to denounce a criminal attack on the migrant shelter in Huehuetoca by mercenaries of the Mara Salvatrucha and harassment by the police or pseudo police," Father Pantoja said in comments published by the newspaper Reforma. "Organized criminal groups are found operating with impunity, extorting and controlling the passage of migrants."
Criminal groups often target migrants transiting Mexico and either kidnap them for ransom or force them into their ranks, said Father Pantoja, director of a migrant shelter in the northern city of Saltillo.
The Huehuetoca shelter served approximately 150 migrants daily. A feeding station also was established in the area, and the Diocese of Cuautitlan has been working with the Mexico state government to build a permanent facility to replace its temporary shelter.
Father Pantoja and others working with migrants have expressed frustration with the state government for not resolving the situation of migrants passing through Mexico state, which borders Mexico City on three sides.
The facility in Huehuetoca had been built after a shelter closer toward Mexico City was forced to close due to conflicts with local residents.