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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mexico arrests leader of "Santa Muerte" cult

Sources: AP and Reuters

The leader of Mexico's Santa Muerte cult has been detained on suspicion of participating in a kidnapping ring, prosecutors said Tuesday.

"The nine captured ... passed themselves off as members of the Zetas," Prosecutor Miguel Angel Mancera told a news conference.

The "Santa Muerte" cult has become popular among drug traffickers in Mexico, in part because followers believe the skeletal figure of the female "saint" may protect them from death or arrest.

David Romo,42, the self-styled archbishop of the church, was one of nine suspects placed under a form of house arrest for 30 days pending investigation.

Romo told reporters at a news conference called by prosecutors to announce the detentions that he is the victim of political persecution and claimed he was tortured.

"In this pre-election time, they are moving (against) a lot of innocent people, to fill their quotas," Romo said. He said he didn't even known some of the other eight suspects.

He also charged that he had been "severely tortured" with electric shocks and beatings.

Romo's church stood behind him, saying in a statement that he had been "tortured in a bestial way," and called on followers to demonstrate outside the government detention center where he is being held.

A spokeswoman for the Mexico City prosecutors office, Esperanza Velarde, denied the accusations of torture. She said Romo "knows he is lying" and "is trying to defend himself."

The prosecutors office alleged Romo participated in a kidnap gang known as "El Aztlan," a name that refers to the mythical homeland of the Aztecs.

The office said he recruited people to launder ransom payments through their bank accounts, and then transfer the money back to Romo or one of his aliases. Romo would then hand over the money to the kidnappers at the church's main shrine in a ramshackle but gaudily decorated building in one of Mexico City's toughest neighborhoods, it said.

Prosecutors claimed Romo got a cut of 25,000 pesos ($2,040) for each payment transferred.

The church's followers have long protested what they say is an undeserved reputation as criminals. They say people from all backgrounds worship the "Santa Muerte", at ceremonies that include an altered version of the Roman Catholic Mass.

The saint is often depicted as a skeletal "grim reaper" draped in white satin robes, beaded necklaces and carrying a scythe or a globe. Followers leave offerings of tequila, rum, beer, cigarettes, cash, flowers and candy at altars adorned with rosaries and candles. At Romo's church, chains are hung on walls as examples of favors granted by the saint, often including getting out of jail.

The church's website features ceremonies to help prisoners get out of legal problems.

It is not the first time the church has come into conflict with officialdom. In March 2009, city workers accompanied by army troops toppled and crushed more 30 Death Saint shrines on a road in the city of Nuevo Laredo, across the border from Laredo, Texas.

City authorities said the roadside shrines were built without permission on public land, and argued the shrines gave Nuevo Laredo a bad image. Followers of the church protested what they called religious persecution.

In 2005, the government canceled the church's official recognition as a religious group, arguing it had violated its own statutes. Only officially recognized churches are allowed to raise money and own property in Mexico.

When the group registered with the Interior Department in 2003, it declared its purpose was to "conserve the Holy Tridentine Mass" of the Roman Catholic Church. A dissident priest from the group said it had violated that precept.

The group did not mention in its registry application that its main activity is to pray for the intercession of Saint Death. The saint is not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, but followers use elements of Catholic rites.

Romo has denied any wrongdoing and said his church condemns violence and has no links to drug traffickers, but that he leaves the door open to everyone.

The Catholic Church frowns on the cult, whose origins may trace back to Aztec and Mayan death-gods or to ancient European traditions, but many devotees call themselves Catholics.

The lure of the death saint is that she is said to honor requests without judging them.

President Felipe Calderon launched an army assault on Mexico's drug gangs on taking office in December 2006, but his crackdown has sparked shocking violence across the country, worrying Washington and foreign investors.


  1. It´s about time they pick up this trash, it´s all over the country in plain site. Good Job - Thousands more to go... Anybody who worships Death and/or Malverde is involved in the drug trade or at the very least is guilty of bad taste, either way they should be incarcerated, or shot.

  2. when i would go to mexico, i would see a lot of people wear the santa muerte on their chains. these people really believed that it would protect them. to me, it's just superstitious people worshipping an idol. it's no different than worshipping guadalupe.

    but when it becomes a cult, then it becomes sacrilege.

  3. I'm not gonna sit here and say they were guilty of kidnapping - I don't know that for a fact, I haven't had a look at the evidence. It wouldn't surprise at all if this guy was involved in some criminal activity.

    However, I do find this part of the story disturbing: "Romo told reporters at a news conference called by prosecutors to announce the detentions that he is the victim of political persecution and claimed he was tortured.

    "In this pre-election time, they are moving (against) a lot of innocent people, to fill their quotas," Romo said. He said he didn't even known some of the other eight suspects.

    He also charged that he had been "severely tortured" with electric shocks and beatings."

    Now, its fairly common knowledge that the police in Mexico routinely use torture to extract "confessions," which carry A LOT of weight in the courtroom.

    If the charges are based on his confession alone, the police should let him go because they (the prosecution) probably have baseless and weak case (another reason why implementing the death penalty in Mex would prove difficult).

    I am by no means a supporter of the Santa Muerte cult, but I insist that the police bring forth the undeniable physical evidence and witness testimonies, or let the guy go. Without evidence, you have nothing.

  4. he needs to meet his santa muerte face to face ...

    assholes like this who promote and profit from the tragedy in Mexico are as guilty as all the rest .

    .maybe even worse ..they are promoting it from a safe distancia

    promising protection form a statue, is not good

  5. La Muerte is the only thing everyone in the world has in common and guaranteed. Respecting it does not necessarily mean it is a sacrilegious (sp) thing. These people know nothing about respecting anything, and hide their malevolent actions behind La Santisima Muerte. I doubt their deaths will be holy at all.

    Mexico is known for celebrating life on Dia de Muertos, because death is a journey, not a religion nor a cult. People like them give everything Mexico stands for a deviated meaning that makes my Mexico seem lacking in real culture. That is a crime in itself.

  6. They give La Santa Muerte a deviated meaning. She is only to be called on to difficult situations and not enslaved for monetary gain, hence the consequences these idiots have unleashed onto my Mexico. If you ask her to do something for you and you do not comply with the 90 days of prayer (not killing or dismemberment of bodies!) She will find a way to get what's hers

  7. Exodus 20

    "And God spoke all these words, saying: 'I am the LORD your God…

    ONE: 'You shall have no other gods before Me.'

    TWO: 'You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.'

    THREE: 'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.'

    FOUR: 'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.'

    FIVE: 'Honor your father and your mother.'

    SIX: 'You shall not murder.'

    SEVEN: 'You shall not commit adultery.'

    EIGHT: 'You shall not steal.'

    NINE: 'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.'

    TEN: 'You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.'

  8. Smurf
    You are wrongfully applying U.S. law and the presumption of innocense in this case. Mexican law is based on the Napoleonic Code that implies if you are accused of a crime you are pressumed guilty unless you can prove your innocense. The burden of proof lies with the accused - not the state. This is why Mexican law allows you to face your accusers in the presence of a Judge in a process called ¨carreo¨


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