Missing San Diego Activist Recovering After Being Found Wounded In Mexico
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Photo by Matthew Bowler / KPBS
Hugo Castro is in stable condition after being found Tuesday in Tlalnepantla de Baz, a city just north of Mexico City. Castro disappeared Thursday, after posting an appeal for help on Facebook Live.
UPDATE: 2:09 p.m., April 19, 2017
Border Angels Founder Enrique Morones is working with the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City to have his volunteer coordinator Hugo Castro transferred to a San Diego hospital from the Red Cross facility in the State of Mexico.
The San Diego activist is receiving medical attention and is stable after being found wounded Tuesday on an street called Avenida San Rafael in Tlalnepantla de Baz, a city in the State of Mexico, Mexico's attorney general said in a press release Tuesday. He had been missing for nearly five days.
Investigators at the office of the special prosecutor for disappeared persons received an anonymous phone call describing his location.
Details surrounding his disappearance are still unclear, but the office of Mexico's attorney general said it has since launched an investigation into "the illegal deprivation of freedom" of Castro.
Castro's partner, Gaba Cortes, shared a few details on her Facebook page Tuesday night, saying representatives from the attorney general's office had been with her all day.
"The health state of Hugo Castro is delicate, he is hospitalized, the medical prognosis is guarded," she wrote.
Morones said he was "delighted" to learn that his volunteer was found alive, although he is very worried about Castro's physical health and is also unaware of the circumstances.
"He is so loved by so many people, I'm sure that positive energy and all the help from so many people played a key role," Morones said. "There's been so many people helping us — the U.S. government, the Mexican government, organizations, individuals, and we really want to thank everybody because it takes a team effort."
Hugo Castro of Border Angels has been missing since Thursday, when he posted a Facebook Live video saying he was being pursued by criminals.
Hugo Castro, a U.S. citizen and immigrant rights activist from San Diego, went missing Thursday evening after posting a Facebook Live video from the shoulder of a highway near Mexico City, saying a group of criminals was "hunting" him.
"Seriously, I was threatened, they want to kill me," he said in Spanish, asking for someone to pick him up, describing his location as Kilometer 37 of the highway to Puebla out of the Mexican capital.
Translated Transcript of Hugo Castro's Facebook Live Video
San Diego activist went missing after posting a Facebook Live video asking for help, saying he was being "hunted" by criminal groups. KPBS is providing an English-language transcript of his words.
Castro is a volunteer coordinator at Border Angels, a San Diego-based advocacy group. KPBS aired a story on Monday that followed Castro as he delivered donations to migrant shelters in Tijuana.
His disappearance came while he was en route to Querétaro, Mexico to participate in a caravan that is following asylum seekers from Central America on their dangerous trek to the U.S.-Mexico border.
The caravan is meant to raise awareness about allegations that the U.S. has been turning away refugees without reviewing their cases, as well as human rights abuses they reportedly suffer in Mexico.
Castro said in his Facebook Live video, posted at 6:28 p.m. on Thursday, that a criminal organization had been following him for days and that they were now cornering him on the highway in freight vehicles. Castro had been traveling on buses and taxis.
He pointed the camera at an area of the highway where he said the drivers of freight vehicles were pulling over and watching him. The video is unclear but the tail lights of a vehicle are visible on the shoulder.
Castro, who appeared distressed, said he was almost out of money and that his phone's battery would soon die.
He added that the criminal organization that he believed was following him was from Tamaulipas and that he suspected the government and various transportation industries were involved.
"I can't trust the police," he said.
U.S. consular officials in Mexico have been aware of the disappearance of Castro and said they plan to assist in the search, a spokesman told KPBS on Monday.
"The welfare of U.S. citizens is one of the Department's highest priorities," said Preeti Shah, a spokesman for the U.S. Consulate. "We stand ready to provide all possible consular assistance. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment at this time."
Castro is one of the highest-profile American individuals to disappear in a country where officials estimate more than 10,000 people are missing. Mexico's attorney general is investigating. According to some estimates, only about one percent of those who go missing are ever found.
Border Angels founder Enrique Morones told KPBS that Castro had received multiple death threats in recent months due to his work to protect Haitian migrants.
“These people that threatened him were trying to take advantage of the Haitians and Hugo was defending them," Morones said.
In Mexico, drug cartels regularly profit off of migrants. They kidnap hundreds of them each month for human trafficking or ransom.
Castro, who regularly posted Facebook Live videos, posted one on March 10 from the Tijuana side of the San Ysidro Port of Entry, where he said he had just received a death threat. He recounted the incident in the dark, saying he had been advising a newly deported group of about 50 migrants on how to avoid being robbed, kidnapped and exploited.
A cab driver confronted Castro, saying he was going to kill him for interfering with his plans to pick up the deported migrants, Castro said. He added that the angry driver — from the Taxi Amarillo line in Tijuana — called his friends and that several of them surrounded Castro, backing off only when they saw security cameras at the port of entry.
"If anything happens to me, I hold responsible the Taxi Amarillo line of cabs here in Tijuana," he said.
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