MEXICO CITY – Four young men found slain on a roadside have been identified as members of Catholic evangelism group, authorities in western Mexico said.
The Michoacán state prosecutor’s office said in a statement Tuesday that family members identified the four men and said they were last seen Saturday, but had not been reported missing. It said one was wearing a tactical vest.
Former La Ruana parish priest José Luis Segura Barragán began posting on his Facebook page about the men’s disappearances on Sunday. He wrote that they belonged to a group called the Rainbow that proselytized in communities. They were all in their 20s.
They were last seen outside the church Saturday around 10:30 p.m. Segura Barragán did not immediately respond to messages, but the Apatzingán Diocese confirmed that the Facebook page belonged to Segura Barragán.
Their bodies were found Tuesday in San Juan de los Plátanos, about 10 miles west of Apatzingán.
In a post Tuesday, Segura Barragán blamed organized crime for the murders.
“This tragedy touches my heart deeply, because I spent time with them for three years, and I accompanied them in their evangelism retreats and their missions to small hamlets,” Segura Barragán wrote.
In a subsequent post, Segura Barragán called on society to stand up against the violence.
“I believe that it’s time that we take seriously organized crime and the government, useless or complicit,” Segura Barragán wrote. “We cannot put up with any more murders, executions, abductions, kidnappings, extortions and the other cruel and destructive actions that the criminals commit against society and the Catholic Church.”
Michoacán has suffered for years under competing drug cartels. So-called self-defense forces rose up to confront them in the absence of government control, though some of those same groups were infiltrated by the cartels.
Last month a Catholic priest was killed in Michoacán. On Monday, the state prosecutor’s office said Rev. José Alfredo López Guillén was killed by two men who visited him at his residence.