Hugo Castro's Family Fights For Transfer To US Hospital, Citing Danger In Mexico
The family of Hugo Castro, a San Diego activist and U.S. citizen whose disappearance has captured international attention, has launched a campaign to bring him back to the U.S. so he can receive medical treatment in a San Diego hospital, saying he "remains in danger" in Mexico.
Castro was transferred Thursday to a Red Cross hospital in Polanco, an upscale Mexico City neighborhood, after two days of receiving medical treatment at Red Cross facilities in the towns of Tlalnepantla de Baz and Naucalpán in the State of Mexico, where he was found covered in mysterious wounds.
"He is far from safe," wrote his sister, Noemi Castro, on GoFundMe. "Hugo appears to have been the victim of a serious crime ... due to his precarious medical condition, and the very real possibility that his life remains in danger, it is urgent that Hugo obtain secure paramedic transportation back to the United States as soon as possible."
What happened to Castro remains unclear. But Castro's partner, Gaba Cortes, told KPBS on Thursday — a few hours before the transfer to a Polanco hospital — that she feared for her life as well as Castro's because the circumstances surrounding his recovery were "very suspicious," particularly the fact Mexican investigators found Castro within hours of her arrival in the Mexican capital.
"I could hardly recognize him," Cortes said of Castro when she first saw him in his injured state. Cortes is the mother of Castro's one-year-old boy.
She said he sustained head wounds and possible brain damage, in addition to the injuries to the rest of his body.
Cortes said she has repeatedly called the National Commission for Human Rights and other organizations without a response. The U.S. Embassy has not responded to multiple requests for comment from KPBS. Mexico's attorney general said it is investigating but has declined to comment further.
"I am very scared," Cortes said, breaking into tears. "We have no protection."
Cortes spoke to KPBS again from the ambulance that was transferring Castro to Polanco and said she was feeling better but that she wanted to reiterate that she was afraid.
"Anything could happen to us," she said. "I need to tell someone in case anything happens to us."
She said Castro — who appears not to remember what happened to him — repeatedly asked police for help after sustaining his mysterious injuries and was ignored.
Castro was unable to eat or express himself until Wednesday, said Wilner Metelus, a leading Mexico City-based advocate for the rights of Afromexicans. Metelus is a friend of Castro's and has visited him several times in the hospital.
Metelus said he believes Mexican authorities could have been involved in whatever happened to Castro.
Castro disappeared on April 13 after pleading for help on Facebook Live, saying he was being "hunted" by criminals and that he didn't trust the police. He was on his way to help a refugee caravan on behalf of Border Angels, a San Diego-based nonprofit where he is a volunteer coordinator. Five days later, investigators with Mexico's attorney general found Castro severely injured on a street in Tlalnepantla de Baz following an anonymous tip.
Cortes and other people close to Castro have said they believe he was targeted because of his activism. He had received multiple death threats in recent months because of his work to protect vulnerable migrants, a main source of profit for drug cartels that have diversified into human trafficking and kidnapping for ransom. They are often targeted by corrupt Mexican police as well.
Enrique Morones, founder of Border Angels, said he is working with multiple high-ranking U.S. and Mexican officials to secure Castro's transfer to the U.S. Morones is also the godfather of Castro's son.
Morones explained that he is trying to get a temporary humanitarian parole visa for Cortes, who is not a U.S. citizen, so she can continue to be by her partner's side while he recovers in a U.S. hospital.