Debris litters the street and sidewalk outside Catemaco's municipal offices. Debris litters the street and sidewalk outside Catemaco's municipal offices.

Catemaco priest found beaten and tortured

Mayor blames activist organization for looting and burning municipal headquarters

The Veracruz priest who disappeared early Friday morning has been found alive, though showing signs of having been beaten and tortured.

José Luis Sánchez Ruiz of the Church of the 12 Apostles in Catemaco was found yesterday morning, according to the Diocese of San Andrés Tuxtla. Bishop Fidencio López said the priest had been “dumped, with notable signs of torture” at an undisclosed location.

Sánchez’ disappearance sparked a wave of violence that began Saturday morning in Catemaco, in which municipal and other offices were looted and burned, a police patrol vehicle burned and highways to the town blockaded.

Catemaco Mayor Jorge González said this morning his town is a peaceful one, and blamed the weekend’s events on an organization that took advantage of a protest by local Catholics to carry out acts of violence.

He accused the Organization for Indigenous Autonomous Government of using a legitimate protest against the priest’s disappearance to carry out “acts of terror” by people who were armed and inebriated.

González said the offices of the DIF family services agency, firefighters, civil registry and Civil Protection were vandalized as well as municipal headquarters.

He said in a radio interview this morning that Catemaco is a peaceful town and lamented that it was now in the national limelight “but not as we would like.”

The third priest to disappear in Veracruz in two months, Sánchez Ruiz was described by diocese spokesman Aaron Reyes as a defender of human rights, and had received threatens recently for his activism.

“He criticized the system of corruption and the crime problem in Catemaco.”

Source: Milenio (sp), e-consulta (sp), BBC (en)

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