Hiding Under the Bed Is Not the Answer


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

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