Mexican human rights activist Karla Castañeda Alvarado applied for political asylum in the US on Feb. 13 after secretly leaving her home in Ciudad Juárez in the northern state of Chihuahua with four of her children. US authorities have granted her six months to provide documentation to justify her application. The Committee of Mothers and Relatives of Disappeared Young Women, in which Castañeda was active, said it was better for her to seek asylum, noting the example of activist Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, who was shot dead by an unidentified man on Dec. 16, 2010, as she was protesting in front of the main government office in the state capital, also named Chihuahua.
Castañeda started her political activity after her daughter Cinthia Jacobeth, then 13 years old, disappeared in Juárez on Oct. 24, 2008. This January Castañeda was part of a 400-km walk by members of the Committee of Mothers to the state capital to present a petition to Gov. César Duarte Jáquez. The governor left for the southeastern state of Chiapas—to participate in the launching of a “National Crusade Against Hunger”—before the activists arrived. Duarte finally met with the committee in Juárez on Feb. 2 and agreed to some of their proposals for fighting the disappearances. However, after the meeting Castañeda was subjected to harassment by the authorities. Municipal police agents raided her home on Feb. 4; unidentified men attempted to enter her yard at about 3 AM on Feb. 6; and state police and agents from the prosecutors’ office went to her house on Feb. 9 and told her mother-in-law that Castañeda was getting “too deep” in the search for her daughter.
Human rights organizations say some 200 women, most of them young, have disappeared in Juárez since 1993, in addition to several hundred women known or presumed to have been murdered. The number of disappeared may be higher, since some families probably don’t report the disappearances for fear of reprisals. (La Jornada, Mexico, Feb. 18; Desinformemonos, Mexico, Feb. 18)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 24
See our last post on the femicide in Mexico.