Facing Death Threats, Pro-Immigrant Priest Leaves Mexico

An outspoken defender of migrants who runs an immigrant shelter in southern Mexico has temporarily left the country due to death threats.

After receiving six threats to his life, Rev. Alejandro Solalinde made the decision to leave the country for two months in consultation with Mexico's District Attorney's office, the National Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, according to Mexican news website Animal Político.

The "Hermanos en el Camino" shelter in Ixtepc, Oaxaca, run by Solalinde said in a statement that the Roman Catholic priest is "protecting his physical safety" until state and federal prosecutors thoroughly investigate the threats.

"I'm not leaving out of fear," Solalinde said, according to Animal Político. "On the contrary, I'm very optimistic about the things we're achieving. If I take a break, it's only out of deference. I'm a missionary and if they hadn't asked me for this time to investigate, I wouldn't have decided to leave the country."

Solalinde says he will return to Mexico in the first days of July.

The most recent threat came on April 15, according to José Donis, who coordinates the shelter.

Solalinde has become widely known in Mexico for publicly denouncing corruption and abuse of mainly Central American migrants who cross into Mexico seeking to reach the United States.

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.

"His comments made candidates and organized crime gangs uncomfortable," Donis said.

Also Monday, a group of experts from the U.N. and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 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.

Solalinde says the Hermanos en el Camino shelter will continue to function normally during his absence.

Spanish speakers can listen to RadioRed's interview with Rev. Solalinde in April below.

Contains material by the Associated Press.

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