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San Diego Activist Disappears In Mexico After Begging For Help On Facebook Live

April 17, 2017 1:32 p.m.

San Diego Activist Disappears In Mexico After Begging For Help On Facebook Live


Jean Guerrero, fronteras reporter, KPBS

Related Story: Missing San Diego Activist Recovering After Being Found Wounded In Mexico


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

There are fears for the life of an immigrant's right advocate, a volunteer with the border Angels. And, civic discourse seems to be a lost art. We hear about a conference this week to relearn it. This is "KPBS Midday Edition." I'm Allison to St. John in Fortran eight. It's Monday, April 17. A volunteer coordinator with border Angels, a San Diego-based group that advocates for migrants has gone missing. Hugo Castro was recently featured in our story on air. Castro was on his way to join a caravan of asylum-seekers from Central America when he went live on Facebook from the side of the freeway.
[ Speaking foreign language ]
That was Castro pleading for help. Jean Guerrero is following the story. Tell us more about what he said in the video.
In the video he appears very distressed. He says he was threatened, he believes people want to kill him, that he had noticed people following him from as far away as northern Mexico. He was taking public transportation to participate in the caravan. He noticed people following him. He does not provide any details so there is a lot of uncertainty about how that went down. He tried to outsmart them, he was switching vehicles and was very surprised to find that they followed him all the way to Mexico City until they eventually cornered him on this highway. He repeatedly points his phone to these freight vehicles that he says have been repeatedly passing him and pulling over on the side of the road, and just staying there, and that the drivers would sometimes come out and stare at him. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but it seems like he was very convinced that there was -- that he was being followed.
That he was in danger?
That he was in danger and wanted somebody to pick him up because he did not trust the Mexican police.
What is the status of the search?
The Mexican prosecutor in Mexico City has begun to investigate. And the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana has been notified. The Mexican consulate in San Diego. Apparently the family is having a little bit of trouble getting the U.S. Consulate in Mexico City involved. But, there is a very sincere effort on the part of the family and activist organizations on both sides of the border to get a binational investigation going.
What does Castro say about why people might be threatening his life?
One of the most frustrating things is that he is does not provide details as to why this would be happening. However, I spoke with someone at border Angels, and I spoke with Hugo Castro's partner. They both indicated to me that they believe -- they know that Castro had received death threats before because of his work to protect migrants. They are very vulnerable populations. Often they are targeted by criminal groups, exploited, kidnapped for ransom, often they lack identification. They are a very vulnerable group and easily exploited by criminal groups. They had told Castro a few weeks ago he had received a death threat saying, you know, you are interfering with our work and we are going to kill you. And actually, Castro had posted another Facebook live video just a few weeks ago saying he had just received a death threat from a taxi driver who appeared to be organized in crime because if he was upset with his work with Haitian migrants.
We heard about Haitian migrants in our feature earlier this last week, I believe. Tell us more about the work he was involved in.
He was involved with the San Diego nonprofit, SOS migrant. Adopt a shelter where they provide donations for food, and other essentials to the migrant shelters that are trying to provide help to the Haitian migrants in Tijuana. Because a lot of them are stuck in Tijuana, they were trying to get into the U.S. And where they got away. They are trying to start life over. He is providing them with supplies as well as suggestions on how to stay safe and not be exploited by criminals.
According to some estimates, 10,000 people have gone missing. Is there something that stands out about the disappearance of Houston Castro?
The problem of disappearance is a widespread problem. There are at least 10,000 missing in Mexico. Castro's case is unique because he is, A, a U.S. citizen, and B, a very high profile person. And, it has always been believed, you know, that a majority of the people who go missing in Mexico are from very low income areas and or that they themselves are in calls -- involved in crime. That is an explanation often given. It was always believed U.S. citizens are safe. And, it is very interesting and notable that Castro is a person that is out there, in the spotlight, fighting for migrant rights.
He is a U.S. citizen, and you would think that would give him a level of safety. If something has happened to him, it's going to create a new dynamic between the two countries in terms of how these issues are dealt with. Problems of the missing have always been seen as a Mexican issue but it might be seen as more of a binational issue if in fact something has happened to Castro.
Thank you very much for bringing this up today. That's Jean Guerrero, KPBS front Harris reporter. -- Fronteras reporter.