Veracruz: army accused in rape death

Armed with clubs, rocks and machetes, at least 3,000 Nahuatl indigenous people blocked roads in Soledad Atzompa municipality in the central eastern Mexican state of Veracruz on Feb. 26 and 27 to demand the removal of the military from the 14 municipalities in the Sierra de Zongolica. They also demanded social services and materials for the villages in the region, and punishment for four soldiers accused of the rape of 73-year-old Ernestina Ascension Rosario, who died on Feb. 26 of the injuries she sustained in the assault. In the Feb. 27 demonstration the protesters detained state public safety secretary Juan Manuel Orozco, state prosecutor Emeterio Lopez and other officials for a half hour and damaged their vehicles.

Ernestina Ascension was found in serious condition in her home in Tetlacingo community in Soledad Atzompa on Feb. 25 and was taken to the hospital, where she died the next day after charging that she had been beaten and raped by four soldiers. According to the forensic report, the causes of death were a cranial fracture, internal hemorrhaging and anal bleeding caused by multiple penetration.

Soldiers belonging to the 26th Military Zone have been stationed in the region for a year, reportedly because of the presence of cells of the rebel Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) and the Revolutionary Army of the Insurgent People (ERPI). Residents accuse the soldiers of repeated abuses of power, robberies, sexual aggressions and human rights violations. On Feb. 2 drunken soldiers from the 26th Military Zone destroyed crops and attacked six residents, for which the military paid compensation. State governor Fidel Herrera Beltran has promised dialogue with the communities, and the state is investigating the accusation against the soldiers. But Assistant Public Safety Secretary Carlos Francisco Mora Dominguez told the protesters that the incident wouldn’t interfere with the state’s relations with the military. “These are things that unfortunately happen in society,” he said. (CIMAC, Feb. 28 via Comite Cerezo)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 4

See our last posts on Mexico and Veracruz.

  1. Investigation opened
    From El Universal, March 3:

    VERACRUZ – Civilian and military prosecutors are investigating charges that soldiers raped a 73-year-old indigenous woman who subsequently died of injuries received in the assault, sources in the state attorney general’s office (PGJE) told EFE Friday. As many as 11 soldiers may have been involved in the crime, news of which has spurred thousands of indigenous to demand the Army vacate the area.

    The soldiers supposedly implicated belong to the 63rd Infantry Battalion and were based in the town of Orizaba. The Defense Secretariat would not confirm accounts that four of the soldiers are under arrest and have given depositions about the incident.

    According to the PGJE, on Feb. 26 several soldiers raped Ernestina Ascensio Rosario, who died in a hospital at Rio Blanco as a result of her injuries.

    The woman was the mother of five children and lived in the town of Tlatacingo in the Zongo’lica highlands, which are home to the largest concentration of indigenous in the state.

    Some 40 communities in the area wrote a letter to the federal and state governments to demand that the soldiers leave and that those responsible for the assault be punished.

    The letter to the president demanded the Army never again enter the Zongolica highlands.

    If the demands of these 40 communities are not met, the indigenous said they would resort to what they called the legitimate defense of their rights to expel the Army units.