Mexico: activist murdered, survivors harassed

Mexican human rights activist Marisela Escobedo Ortiz was buried in Ciudad Ju√°rez in the northern state of Chihuahua on Dec. 18, two days after she was shot dead by an unidentified man as she was protesting in front of the main government office in the state capital, also named Chihuahua. Police provided security for the funeral, which was originally planned for Dec. 21 but was rescheduled after a group of at least 10 men burned down the lumberyard belonging to Escobedo’s husband, Jos√© Monge Marroqu√≠n, earlier on Dec. 18 and kidnapped his brother.

More than 50 cars of friends, relatives, activists and reporters followed the hearse, accompanied by police patrol cars. Activists also held vigils at the site where Escobedo was shot.

The murder took place while Escobedo was protesting what she said was state governor C√©sar Duarte J√°quez’s failures in prosecuting the 2008 murder of her daughter, Rub√≠ Marisol Freyre. The activist had identified the killer as Sergio Rafael Barraza, who the state attorney general’s office says is linked to organized crime. Barraza was finally arrested on Apr. 30 of this year, but a three-judge panel ordered him released for lack of evidence. Barraza then went into hiding.

An appeals court later sentenced Barraza to 50 years in absentia, and the three judges that released him were suspended, but according to Gustavo de la Rosa Hickerson, from the state human rights commission, the real blame for Barraza’s release lies with former state prosecutor Patricia Gonz√°lez Rodr√≠guez and the Public Ministry for failing to produce sufficient evidence before the court.

Hundreds of young women have been murdered
in Ciudad Ju√°rez since the early 1990s, and most of the killings are officially unsolved. The city is also one of the centers of the federal government’s militarization of the fight against drug trafficking; more than 30,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calder√≥n Hinojosa declared the “drug war” shortly after taking office four years ago. At least eight other local activists are said to have been threatened with death, including Evangelina Arce, vice president of the Independent Chihuahua Pro Human Rights Committee (CICH). Her daughter, Silvia Arce, was allegedly disappeared by ex-federal judicial police agents in 1997, and her grandson, √Āngel Octavio Atayde Arce, was murdered in 2006. (EFE, Dec. 18, via La Prensa, San Antonio, Texas; La Jornada, Mexico, Dec. 19)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 19.

See our last post on Mexico.

  1. Ciudad Ju√°rez: another “femicide” activist murdered
    Susana Ch√°vez, 36, a Ciudad Ju√°rez poet who led protests against impunity in the “femicide” cases and coined the slogan “Ni una muerta mas” (Not one more dead), was herself strangled to death the night of Jan. 5. Found near the city center with a bag covering her head and a hand severed, her remains were only identified on Jan. 11. Authorities are implausibly claiming that she was killed by three youths she had spent the night partying with‚ÄĒthe narco-style mutilation of the body was allegedly an attempt by the perpetrators to make it look like an narco-gang assassination. Chihuahua state prosecutors say three youths, all 17, are in custody. (LAT, Jan. 14; AP, Jan. 12; El Diario, Ju√°rez, Jan. 11)

  2. Juarenses remember Susana Ch√°vez
    Received from reader Sabine Guez in Paris:

    This is a short film of a march this past Sunday, from the spot where Susana’s body was left, to the Santa F√© Bridge, where the marchers put her name on the nails cross erected to the murdered women of Ju√°rez. It starts with a short audio segment in English about the ongoing murders of women. A local hip hop band (Boca Floja y Akil Amma) sings about Ju√°rez and its working people, the violence and the impunity. Poems by Susana Ch√°vez are read by another poet, Armin√© Arjona (with a mask)…

  3. Six women Nobel laureates protest slaying of Marisela Escobedo
    Six women who have won the Nobel Peace Prize‚ÄĒJody Williams, Rigoberta Mench√ļ, Betty Williams, Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, Shirin Ebadi and Wangari Maathai‚ÄĒissued a joint open letter condemning the assassination of Marisela Escobedo and calling on the Mexican government to “seek justice without delay” in the Ju√°rez femicide cases. (Milenio, Jan. 18)