Ana María Marcela Yarce Viveros, journalist for the magazine Contralínea, and Rocío González Trápaga, freelance journalist and once a reporter on one of Mexico’s biggest television channels, Televisa, were found dead in a park in Mexico City by an early-morning jogger on Thursday. The two women had been strangled; they were discovered naked with their hands and feet tied and rope around their necks. It still is not clear why they were murdered. Yarce Viveros was close friends with González Trápaga; they were last seen having coffee together at quarter to ten on Wednesday night outside the offices of Contralínea.
This story has made the headlines in Mexico and other countries for a number of reasons. The first is the fact that both women were journalists: according to a variety of sources, including a UN report from last year and information gathered by the NGO Reporters Without Borders, Mexico is the most dangerous place to be a journalist in the American continent. Eight reporters have been killed in 2011 alone and somewhere between 74 and 80 in the last decade. Violence against reporters seems to be one of the consequences of Mexico’s struggle with the drug cartels; although there also well-documented cases of intimidation and violence employed by rich and powerful citizens against journalists they perceive as a threat (see my previous blog post here). Those murdered by the gangs generally show signs of torture or mutilation postmortem. According to reports made by the Mexico City authorities up until now, Yarce Viveros or González Trápaga had also suffered gunshot wounds prior to death, but it isn’t clear how these were received.
The second reason that this story appears to have made headlines is that the Public Prosecutor in Mexico City, Miguel Ángel Mancera has indicated that the crimes will be investigated as “femicide” (feminicidio) or, as the Associated Press has translated it, “gender crimes”. This class of crime has only been recently adopted in Mexico City and is still quite controversial. Briefly it defines femicide as the murder of women, whose bodies’ present signs of sexual abuse and/or mutilation prior to death or postmortem or have been dumped in a public place. Women whose murderers later prove to be relations or (ex)partners, or whose killers can be showed to have previously made threats against the victim should also be classified this way. The circumstances in which the women’s corpses were dumped –tied up and left naked in a public park– oblige the Mexico City police to investigate their murder in this way. However, thus far the authorities have not commented that the women’s bodies evidence that they were tortured or sexually abused before their deaths. (You can see my other posts on the subject of feminicidio in Mexico here and here).
So were Yarce Viveros and González Trápaga murdered for their work as journalists or targeted simply for being women? So far the evidence points to the former: it appears both women had been writing a story about the real estate business in Mexico for prominent broker, Víctor Javier Perera Calero, who was also murdered three days before the women disappeared. It is likely that the fact that they were women merely determined the manner in which the murderers decided to dispose of the bodies.