Hiding Under the Bed Is Not the Answer

55% Women Murdered in Mexico State Are Killed By Their Partners

Further to my blog post on femicide in Mexico State:

The Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México has published a study showing that 55% of women murdered in that state since 2005 have died at the hands of their partners. The study also reveals that the bulk of the victims are between 16 and 40 years of age, living in marginalised areas of the state. See the following link for details (in Spanish)

Mataron parejas a 55% de mujeres en Edomex: estudio – El Universal – Estado de Mexico.

In my view, the inescapable conclusion of this report is that the rise in violence in general in Mexico in the last couple of years (well documented by Fernando Escalante in this month’s issue of Nexos) and with it, the perceived rise in femicide, must be linked to the high levels of impunity which perpetrators enjoy. As I have documented before, the state of Mexico has a sorry record in prosecuting femicide and violence against women. A report published this week by CIMAC Noticias exemplifies this situation: Nadia Alejandra was killed  by her husband, Bernardo López Gutiérrez and her brother-in-law in front of her three children (of 2, 4 and 5 years of age), seven years ago. The investigating authorities (Ministerio Público) “lost” the cord used to strangle her; alledging motives of “hygiene” they refused to analyse blood found at the murder scene; and, worse still, they “forgot” to seal the scene allowing the family of the murderers to burn all other evidence.  Efforts by her mother finally resulted in López Gutiérrez being captured and sentenced, but the problems and deficiencies of the evidence meant that he could appeal his conviction and was subsequently released. The case is now before the International Court for Human Rights.

Undoubtedly, the figures published in this report also indicate a high levels of social and cultural acceptance of violence against women in Mexico State, especially in deprived areas. But again, this leads back to the question of impunity. This culture of tolerance cannot be addressed properly until those in power, like the Chief Prosecuting Officer for the state, Alfredo Castillo Cervantes, abandon their misgynistic prejudices about the causes of violence against women. While it is still acceptable for the authorities to argue that femicides are the women’s fault for their lifestyle choices or appearences, public tolerance will continue.

Authorities in Mexico State (and Mexico as a whole) need to realise that no woman deserves to be murdered because they happen to be married to a violent man or because of their profession or because they have issues with drugs or alcohol. Violence against women is not a woman’s fault, it is the fault of the perpetrator. Is that so difficult to understand?


Filed under: Feminism, Politics, Violence Against Women, , , , , , ,


Presidential hopeful and Mexico State Governor Enrique Peña NietoEnrique Peña Nieto is the governor of Mexico State, the most populous in Mexico. After President Felipe Calderón, he is probably one of the best known political figures in the whole Mexican Republic. He is a handsome, charming person who also happens to have recently married a very famous, and highly photogenic, soap actress, Angélica Rivera. Peña Nieto belongs to the Partido de la Revolution Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI), where he is linked to a faction associated with ex President Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994). His political office and connections within his party make him a very powerful figure, while the understanding he has forged with the principal television companies in Mexico (Televisa and TV Azteca) make sure that he receives a very favourable press on national television. He is, understandably therefore, a very ambitious man whose sights are firmly set on the 2012 presidential elections.

Unfortunately for him, not all is rosy on this front at the moment. As readers of this blog will be aware, Peña Nieto is also unlucky enough to be the governor of the state in which most feminicidios (femicide: the murder of a women for reasons linked to her gender, see my other blog post here) have occurred in the last few years. To be exact, 922 women have been murdered in Mexico State since 2005 and, just in the last 18 months, there have been 4, 773 reports of sexual violence in the state. As I reported last November, the Federal Senate had formally drawn the governor’s attention to this problem. Since then human rights groups have asked the Sistema Nacional para Prevenir, Atender, Sancionar y Erradicar la Violencia contra las Mujeres (National System for the Prevention, Attention, Sanction and Eradication of Violence Against Women) [1], a body set up in 2007 in response to pressure from groups campaigning against violence against women in Mexico to issue what is called a “alerto de género” or gender alert in the state, a process that would involve the investigation into the deaths of the women and the manner in which they have been handled by the authorities. That such a measure needs to be taken is quite clear. As I have mentioned repeatedly on this blog, the level of impunity enjoyed by the murderers of women in Mexico State (and, it must be noted, in the Republic as a whole) is quite lamentable. In the cases of women murdered between 2000 and 2005, only 35% of murders have been convicted; while in 20% of cases an arrest warrant has been issued, but no one has been arrested; and, in the other 45% of cases the investigation is still ongoing [2]. The Non-Governmental Organization, Observatorio Ciudadano Nacional del Feminicidio (National Citizen Femicide Observatory) estimates that in general 50% of femicides in Mexico State are mishandled and neglected [3]. Furthermore, as Amnesty International highlighted in last year’s “Write-a-thon” Campaign, cases of institutionalised abuse of women by policemen and federal officers have also not been adequately dealt with (see my blog post on the subject here).

Peña Nieto does not see things quite like that, though. In his opinion, the call for a “gender alert” in Mexico State is politically motive with the intention of undermining his presidential ambitions and the state governor elections which are due this year (and whose outcome, he obviously would like to control). Immediately prior to the meeting in which the Sistema Nacional para Prevenir, Atender, Sancionar y Erradicar la Violencia contra las Mujeres was to decide on this issue he denied that there had been more femicides in his state than any other in the last five years [4]. Moreover, he used his political muscle to lean on those members of the commission who came from state ruled by the PRI and as a result, the integrants voted against the measure. As journalist and human rights activist Lydia Cacho later reported, the Mexico State Prosecutor, Alfredo Castillo Cervantes tried to minimize the figures with arguments that laid bare his own misogyny and amply demonstrated why his officers are woefully incapable of confronting this problem. Castillo said that most of the women had been murdered “porque consumen drogas, alcohol o usan inhalantes; trabajan en bares en los que alternan con los clientes o salen a altas horas de la noche” (“because they used drugs or drank alcohol or sniffed glue; they worked in bars in which they mixed with their clients [this appears to a euphemism for being prostitutes] or they went out very late at night”). In a nutshell: they deserved what they got and their deaths were not worth looking into.[5]. He also made the faintly laughable excuse that not all of the women murdered had been born in Mexico State and so shouldn’t be included in the figures.

State and Federal deputies from the PRI also waded into the row, speaking out in favour of Peña Nieto. They highlighted Castillo Cervante’s argument that 60% of the victims were not natives of the state and pointed out that if the figures were broken down proportionally Mexico State was far from being the most violent: a ratio of 1.38 homicides for every 100, 000 inhabitants, lower than Baja California with 3.22, Sinaloa with 2.60, Sonora with 2.35, Michoacán and Morelos with 1.97, Hidalgo with 1.65 and Guanajuato with 1.53 [6] This was meant to defend their political overload, but the figures hardly help their case. So, proportionally, Mexico State is not more violent than its neighbours, but this is hardly a reason not to investigate the deaths. Rather in the light of these figures it is a reason to demand similar “gender alerts” be issued in other states if not nationwide. What is clear is that there is an unacceptable level of violence against women in Mexico as a whole, and that state governments plus their investigating and prosecuting officers (known as Ministerio Público orPublic Ministry) and Procuraduría del Estado or State Prosecutors ) need to take measures to deal with it.

In the face of the negative media attention the decision not to impose a “gender alert” in Mexico state and the criticism levelled at Peña Nieto and Castillo Cervantes from human rights and women’s’ groups, the governor announced he would set up discussion fora at the end of the month in which experts on gender violence would be convened to look into the situation in the state. It can only be hoped that this will not be just a talking shop and an opportunity for Peña Nieto to have his photograph taken alongside the participants. But for now, it looks very much like a typical damage limitation exercise which aims to do nothing more than counteract all the negative publicity this situation has generated for the PRI’s golden boy and presidential hopeful.

See update to this post added on 25 January 2011 here.


[1] http://webapps01.un.org/vawdatabase/searchDetail.action?measureId=5801&baseHREF=country&baseHREFId=864 This a commission made up of representatives of the Secretaría de Gobernación (Equilavent of the Home Office or US State Department) Secretaría de Desarrollo Social (Ministry of Social Development); Secretaría de Seguridad Pública (Ministry of Public Security); Procuraduría General de la República (Federal Prosecution Office); Secretaría de Educación Pública (Ministry of Education); la Secretaría de Salud (Ministry of Health); el Consejo Nacional para Prevenir la Discriminación (The National Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women) ; el Sistema Nacional para el Desarrollo Integral de la Familia (The National System for the Integral Development of the Family or DIF – the nearest thing Mexico has to Social Services) and the 32 Women’s Institutes from Mexico’s different states.

[2] http://www.cimacnoticias.com/site/10091301-REPORTAJE-Cuanto-ma.44114.0.html


[4] http://www.proceso.com.mx/rv/modHome/pdfExclusiva/87263

[5] A very widespread opinion within both the police and prosecuting offices throughout Mexico, see my post here.

[6] http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/notas/738016.html

Filed under: Feminism, Politics, Violence Against Women, , , , , ,


Marisela Escobedo Ortiz’s daughter, Rubí Marisol Frayre Escobedo, was 16 when she disappeared from the house in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua in August 2008. From that moment on, Ms. Escobedo Ortiz worked tirelessly to find her daughter, who she believed dead, and to bring her murderer to justice. Thanks to her own investigations and the pressure she put on the authorities in Chihuahua, Ms. Frayre Escobedo’s boyfriend, Sergio Rafael Barraza Bocanegra, was arrested as a suspect and prosecuted for this crime in 2009. With his cooperation, the remains fo the murdered teenager were found and returned to her mother. Despite this, and although Barraza Bocanegra also confessed to the crime, he was absolved and released on 30 April 2010. Ms. Escobedo Ortiz did not give up her fight for justice, and largely thanks to her campaign, a second court revoked the original sentence and convicted Barraza Bocanegra for the murder of Ms. Fraye Escobedo. Barraza Bocanegra was nolonger in custody by this time and had fled to the state of Zacatecas. Due to a lack of cooperation between the different state authorities, nothing was done to arrest Barraza Bocanegra, so Ms Escobedo Ortiz tracked him down of her own accord and attempted to have him arrested. She visited the Procuradores de Justicia (Heads of the Prosecuting Services) in Chihuahua and Zacatecas and in July 2010 she travelled to Mexico City to speak to both President Felipe Calderón and the Procurador General de Justicia Federal (The Head of the Federal Prosecution Service), but both declined to receive her. On 3 December she set up a permanent protest in the city of Chihuahua declaring  “No me voy a mover de aquí hasta que detengan al asesino de mi hija” (I’m not leaving until my daughter’s murderer is arrested”) [1] She also denounced that she was subject to death threats from members of Barreza Bocanegra’s family. On 17 December 2010 she was murdered in front of Government Palace in Chihuahua City. Later, it transpired that her daughter’s murderer was also thought to be implicated in this crime.

Susana Chávez was a poet and human rights activist from Ciudad Juárez who worked with groups that protested against femicides in Chihuahua. Among other things she coined the phrase, “Ni una muerta más” (Not one more [female] death), which has been used in innumerable protests. She used her blog “Primera tormenta” (First storm) to publicise her poetry and activism. On 6 January 2011 she herself was murdered herself after going into the city centre with friends. Postmortum her hand was cut off.

Two female deaths in three weeks in Chihuahua is sadly not newsworthy. However, the fact that both murder victims were actively participated in the defence of human rights and the fight against femicide in Ciudad Juárez, has bought the state of Chihuahua to the attention of Mexico’s national media. Amnesty International and other human rights groups have published condemnations of the situation, and candle-lit protests have been organized for the victims in cities around Mexico. As a result, it has been politically imperative for the governor of the state, César Duarte, to be seen to be doing something. Unfortunately, so far it does not appear that he intends to address the root issues of the problem; in particular, the failures of the justice system and Prosecution Service in Chihuahua to adequately investigate and prosecute the murder of women in Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua State as a whole. Rather the idea appears to be to look for scapegoats.

In the case of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, the judges that originally absolved Barrera Bocanegra have been suspended and are under investigation. No mention has been made of an investigation to look into to how the PGEC (Procuraduría General del Estado de Chihuahua) handled the investigation, or why, after Barrera Bocanegra was convicted, these authorities did nothing to arrest him even when they were informed of his whereabouts by Ms. Escobedo Ortiz. Neither has he addressed the question of why the state authorities failed to provide Ms. Escobedo Ortiz with adequate protection, when they were aware of the death threats against her.

In the case of Susana Chávez, the investigating officers deny that her murder had anything to do with her political activism. The state Fiscal Attorney claims that Ms. Chávez met three adolescent boys in a bar in the centre of Ciudad Juárez and decided to go back with them to their house to drink. According to the three boys, now under arrest, Ms. Chávez pretended to be a police officer and threatened to denounce them for being gang member. As a result they took her into the shower and smothered her. This story might be true, but seems very far-fetched. Ms. Chávez was 36, not 16. She was a political activist and defender of women’s human rights in the city which is most famous for its terrible record of femicide, not a naive factory worker. It is hard not to suspect that the story has been concocted and the boys arrested to ensure the case is concluded as soon as possible.

[1] For more details on Marisela Escobedo Ortiz’s campaign see http://www.cadhac.org/derechos_humanos/amnistia-internacional-condena-el-asesinato-de-la-activista-que-buscaba-justicia-para-su-hija/ and http://justiciaparanuestrashijas.blogspot.com/2010_12_19_archive.html

Filed under: Uncategorized, Violence Against Women, , , , , , , ,

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,067 other followers