Mexican police allegedly turned over a Guatemalan migrant for the equivalent of US$40 to an angry mob, which beat him to death in revenge for a robbery, news reports and witnesses said on Wednesday.
The death of Julio Fernando Cardona, 19, near a hostel for migrants in the city of Tultitlan on August 8 sparked protests on Tuesday outside the Mexican embassy in Guatemala City and Guatemalan charges of possible police complicity.
The San Diego Migrants House director Father Hugo Raudel told reporters that Cardona was detained by police as a suspect and taken away in a patrol car.
“The police had him get into the car, but they did not turn him over [to prosecutors], but rather they went and turned him over for 500 pesos” to a group of angry youths who had been robbed, he said.
Other witnesses said Cardona had nothing to do with the robbery, but was beaten to death anyway by youths demanding that he return what he had allegedly stolen.
“The police detained the wrong person, they made a mistake,” a resident of the hostel said, speaking on condition of anonymity. This witness also said police charged 500 pesos to turn Cardona over to the mob.
The police said the patrol car was dispatched to the scene in response to a call by a neighbor that a youth was being beaten.
However, witnesses said the police were on the scene before the beating.
“The police arrived first and they negotiated for a few bills to let them beat him,” a Honduran migrant who identified himself only as Merwin told reporters.
In Guatemala City, the country’s foreign ministry said Mexican authorities informed them that two suspects were arrested in the case.
The foreign ministry also said that it would fully pay to send Cardona’s remains to his home town of Pajapita, located about 230km southeast of Guatemala City.
Amnesty International on Tuesday called on the government to protect the migrant refuge from angry residents who over the weekend threatened to burn it down.
Tultitlan is a common stop for Central American migrants heading north on US-bound freight trains that pass through the town near Mexico City.
The government says about 140,000 migrants, mostly Central Americans, cross Mexico each year on their way to the US.
However, nongovernmental organizations put the number at more than 400,000, and say many are subject to assaults, abuse and kidnappings with the complicity of the authorities.