A tow truck transports two vehicles Friday, Dec. 26, 2008, that were damaged during a Christmas Eve murder rampage at a home in Covina, Calif. Bruce Pardo, who showed up dressed as Santa Claus at his ex-wife's parents' party, killed at least nine people at the party before setting the home on fire and later killing himself. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Not even drug rehabs are safe from Mexico’s drug cartels.
Medical officials say five recovering drug addicts died and dozens of others were sickened by soy sausage served for Christmas dinner at a rehabilitation center in western Mexico.
Authorities were investigating whether the poisoning at the center in the city of Guadalajara was accidental or intentional. Drug cartels have taken over rehabilitation centers in parts of Mexico, forcibly recruiting addicts as hit men and smugglers. The invasions have led to mass shootings at the centers that have left dozens dead.
One rehab shooting, in June 2010, left 19 people dead after a gunman stormed into a Chihuahua drug center.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, gangs frequent private rehabilitation center because they could easily recruit member trying to clean themselves up after getting hooked on their product. The centers, which often have little or no security, also sometimes serve as fronts for drug dens, or offer a safe haven to gangsters on the run.
Victor Valencia, the Chihuahua state Secretary of Public Security, has said that rehab clinics are a hotbed of criminal activity, and “cartels are using them to recruit young people from 17 to 23 years old.”
Alhy Daniel Nunez is a spokesman for the Red Cross in the western state of Jalisco, where Guadalajara is located. He said Monday that 37 people remained hospitalized, three of them in serious condition.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.