Mexico: high court backs Otomí women

Two indigenous Mexican women, Teresa González Cornelio and Alberta Alcántara Juan, were released from prison on April 28 after serving more than three and a half years of a 21-year sentence for allegedly kidnapping six agents of the now-defunct Federal Investigation Agency (AFI). Their release followed a unanimous ruling by a five-member panel of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) that the two women, street vendors who belong to the Otomí indigenous group, had been falsely imprisoned. The charges against them stemmed from a March 26, 2006 incident in the market in Santiago Mexquititlán community, Amealco de Bonfil municipality in Querétaro state; the AFI agents had raided the market in an unsuccessful search for pirated DVDs, destroying the women’s booth in the process.

Justice Arturo Zaldívar, a member of the SCJN panel, said the ruling was intended to set a precedent for the rights of indigenous women. “We tend to think that this is not the first time [an injustice] has happened and that it is, in fact, a common practice, undermining human rights…which is more than embarrassing for our judicial system,” Zaldívar said. According to the Miguel Agustín Pro Human Rights Center, which represented González Cornelio and Alcántara Juan, 8,000 indigenous women are in Mexican prisons, and nine out of 10 were not given access to a translator at their trials. (Many Mexicans speak indigenous languages and need translation for court proceedings, which are in Spanish).

A month after their release, González Cornelio and Alcántara Juan were again working as street vendors selling traditional indigenous handmade cloth dolls. They said several politicians had visited them in prison and promised them better jobs but failed to follow through. They refused to name the politicians. (SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico, May 19 via; El Universal, Mexico, June 2)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 6.

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