Townspeople angry over the feared kidnapping of a priest set fire inside an eastern Mexican town’s municipal building on Saturday, weeks after two other clerics were killed in the same state.
Dozens of protesters had stormed the town hall in Catemaco earlier on Saturday and returned in the evening to burn part of it, demanding that the Roman Catholic priest be found alive. They also torched a police car.
Catemaco is in the eastern state of Veracruz, a region plagued by drug cartel violence.
“Seeing that there were no results in the investigation, they tossed fuel and set fire tonight in the municipal palace of Catemaco,” Father Aaron Reyes, spokesman for the diocese of San Andres Tuxtla, told reporters.
Reyes said the protesters are not linked to the church and used the priest’s disappearance as a motive to protest.
The priest, Jose Luis Sanchez Ruiz, is believed to have been kidnapped because the doors to his church were found opened “in a violent manner” on Friday, the diocese said in a statement. He was last seen on Thursday.
Sanchez Ruiz, 54, had received threats after complaining about crime in Catemaco, according to a priest who requested anonymity for security reasons.
On Friday, the protesters blocked roads in the area.
Mexico is one of the most violent places for priests in the world.
In September, two priests were found dead on a roadside a day after they were taken away from their church in another town in Veracruz. Prosecutors have detained two people and say the priests were killed by acquaintances after an argument.
That same month, another priest was found shot dead after disappearing in the western state of Michoacan.
Fifteen priests have been killed in Mexico since President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in December 2012, according to the Catholic Multimedia Center, which tracks crimes against the clergy.