Mexico: government apologizes in 2002 rape case

Mexican governance secretary Alejandro Poiré formally apologized to indigenous campesina Inés Fernández Ortega at a ceremony in Ayutla de los Libres in the southwestern state of Guerrero on March 6 for her rape by three Mexican soldiers in 2002. Along with Valentina Rosendo, who was raped by soldiers in a separate incident, Fernández filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), which ruled in October 2010 that the Mexican government was responsible and must apologize to the two women. Federal attorney general Marisela Morales and Guerrero governor Angel Aguirre were also present for the apology.

The Mexican government initially denied the charges and accused Fernández of lying. In the apology he offered on March 6, PoirĂ© simply referred to the rape as “regrettable acts” and failed to mention that the perpetrators were soldiers. When Fernández’ turn came to speak, soldiers in civilian dress at first blocked her access to the podium, apparently not realizing that the indigenous woman was the guest of honor.

Fernández, who only speaks the Me’phaa (Tlapaneco) language), ignored the officials and addressed her community: “Listen to me, everyone, men, women, children: the people from the government, even though they say they’re on your side, they’re not going to come through. Don’t pay attention to them.” She said the soldiers committed the crime against her “because we are poor,” and went on to describe continuing aggressions, including checkpoints, interrogations, illegal searches, the murder of her brother Lorenzo, the theft of their crops, and orders by municipal presidents not to provide resources to her village, Barranca Tecuan. “The government doesn’t let us organize,” she charged. “The soldiers go on not letting us move freely in our communities.” (La Jornada, Mexico, March 7)

The ceremony in Guerrero came just two days before International Women’s Day. “[T]here’s not much to celebrate” in Mexico, human rights activist Norma Esther Andrade told the Spanish wire service EFE, “and less on Women’s Day.” Andrade’s daughter was murdered in Ciudad Juárez in the northern state of Chihuahua in 2001; Norma Andrade herself was attacked in Juárez in December 2011, and then again on Feb. 3 in Mexico City, where she’d moved for greater security. The National Femicide Monitoring Center (OCNF) reports that 1,235 women were murdered from January 2010 to June 2011 in just eight of the country’s 32 federal entities (31 states and the Federal District, which includes Mexico City). (EFE, March 8, via terra.com)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 11.

See our last posts on Mexico and violence against women.