Mexico: activist murdered, survivors harassed
Mexican human rights activist Marisela Escobedo Ortiz was buried in Ciudad Juárez in the northern state of Chihuahua on Dec. 18, two days after she was shot dead by an unidentified man as she was protesting in front of the main government office in the state capital, also named Chihuahua. Police provided security for the funeral, which was originally planned for Dec. 21 but was rescheduled after a group of at least 10 men burned down the lumberyard belonging to Escobedo's husband, José Monge Marroquín, earlier on Dec. 18 and kidnapped his brother.
More than 50 cars of friends, relatives, activists and reporters followed the hearse, accompanied by police patrol cars. Activists also held vigils at the site where Escobedo was shot.
The murder took place while Escobedo was protesting what she said was state governor César Duarte Jáquez's failures in prosecuting the 2008 murder of her daughter, Rubí Marisol Freyre. The activist had identified the killer as Sergio Rafael Barraza, who the state attorney general's office says is linked to organized crime. Barraza was finally arrested on Apr. 30 of this year, but a three-judge panel ordered him released for lack of evidence. Barraza then went into hiding.
An appeals court later sentenced Barraza to 50 years in absentia, and the three judges that released him were suspended, but according to Gustavo de la Rosa Hickerson, from the state human rights commission, the real blame for Barraza's release lies with former state prosecutor Patricia González Rodríguez and the Public Ministry for failing to produce sufficient evidence before the court.
Hundreds of young women have been murdered in Ciudad Juárez since the early 1990s, and most of the killings are officially unsolved. The city is also one of the centers of the federal government's militarization of the fight against drug trafficking; more than 30,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa declared the "drug war" shortly after taking office four years ago. At least eight other local activists are said to have been threatened with death, including Evangelina Arce, vice president of the Independent Chihuahua Pro Human Rights Committee (CICH). Her daughter, Silvia Arce, was allegedly disappeared by ex-federal judicial police agents in 1997, and her grandson, Ángel Octavio Atayde Arce, was murdered in 2006. (EFE, Dec. 18, via La Prensa, San Antonio, Texas; La Jornada, Mexico, Dec. 19)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 19.
See our last post on Mexico.