Mexico: demos target murders of women activists

Mexican social organizations and human rights groups carried out actions in at least eight states on March 8, International Women’s Day, to demand that the authorities end the murders of women, categorize femicide as a special crime, and pay attention to women’s demands.

Much of the focus was on the recent murders of women activists in the northern state of Chihuahua. Dozens of people marched outside the state prosecutor’s local office in Ciudad Juárez to demand action on the murders of Juárez-based activists, including Marisela Escobedo, six members of the Reyes Salazar family and Susana Chávez, a poet and activist who was strangled on Jan. 5. Demonstrators also demanded investigations of the disappearances of many area women, such as Silvia Arce, who was reportedly taken away by ex-federal judicial police agents 13 years ago. So far this year, 87 women have been killed in the state, 57 of them in Juárez.

The center-left government of the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) is currently providing police protection and medical and psychological services for 12 members of the Reyes Salazar family. Violence against the family started after activist Josefina Reyes Salazar began denouncing the federal government’s militarized “war against drugs,” including the arrest of one of her sons. The family is in Mexico City while it considers seeking political asylum in another country.

In Nuevo León, another northern state suffering from “drug war” violence, dozens of activists demonstrated in front of the state government building in Monterrey calling for an end to the murders of women and for respect for gender equality. They lit candles in memory of murdered women and carried three crosses spelling out the slogan: “Not one more.”

Some 5,000 people demonstrated and blocked four highways in the largely indigenous southeastern state of Chiapas to protest violence against women. The actions took place in 15 municipalities, including San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chenalhó, Ixtapa, Pueblo Nuevo, Frontera Comalapa and Ocosingo. Some 500 women from the Civil Society Organization Las Abejas (“The Bees”), marched 3 km from Majomut community, Chenalhó, to protest at a military base. Soldiers blocked the way when the women tried to enter the base to pray. The 45 indigenous people massacred in Acteal on Dec. 22, 1997, were members of the organization.

In the southern state of Oaxaca, teachers from the militant Section 22 of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE) suspended classes and marched through the state capital, Oaxaca city, for a rally; organizers said there were 40,000 people at the demonstration, while state police put attendance at 20,000. (La Jornada. Mexico, March 8, March 9)

Also on March 8, women’s rights activists said they were taking seriously an announcement by Humberto Moreira Valdés, president of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), that he would hold a consultation to establish his party’s position on abortion. Currently abortion is legal only in the DF, while 16 states have toughened their anti-abortion laws recently, often with the votes of PRI legislators. Both Moreira and former PRI president Beatriz Paredes have said they support a woman’s right to choose. (LJ, March 9)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 13.

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