Hiding Under the Bed Is Not the Answer

Margarita has been released!

I have just been informed that Margarita López Gómez, the indigenous women from Chiapas unjustly imprisoned for the murder of her husband (who I wrote about here, here and here), has been finally released from the terms of her suspended sentence thanks to the effort and hardwork of her lawyer Rosa López Santis, from the Women’s Human Right Centre in Chiapas and the social media campaign led by Patricia Chandomí which included a petition at change.org I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who signed this petition.

Margarita suffered for many years at the hands of the judicial authorities in Chiapas, who imprisoned her after forcing a confession form her during an interrogation conducted in Spanish, a language she did not speak nor understand. She was kept in solitary confinement and raped during her prison stay. It can only be hoped that now she has been completely freed, she will be able to make a new life for herself and her family.

Filed under: Feminism, Human Rights in Mexico, Violence Against Women, , ,

Freedom and Justice for Margarita

The following is a resumed translation from a blog post at Observatorio Ciudadano by Patricia Chandomí (@patriachandomi)

Margarita López Gómez married Juan Velasco López at the age of twelve in Tojchuctik, hamlet that makes up the council of Mitontic in the southwestern state Chiapas. Velasco López had paid López Gómez’s father ten bottle of alcohol to arrange the marriage a year earlier. Velasco López took Margarita to a different town, Venustiano Carranza, where they lived together in a rented room. Two months later, she returned to Mitontic where she complained to the village authorities that her husband beat her daily. They told her that Velasco Gómez “was her husband and she should put up with it.”   

Later she and Velasco Gómez moved to Chincuyal, where her husband bought himself a new wife, Juana, who he brought to live in the family home. Both wives had six children each. Velasco Gómez continued to be violent on a daily basis and often came home drunk. Soon López Gómez also became an alcoholic. He also raped one of Margarita’s daughters, Sonia, repeatedly from the age of eight and at twelve, she became pregnant twice as a result.

In 2005, aged fifteen with two children as a result of her father’s sexual violence, Sonia killed her father one night as he lay drunk with her mother. She and her mother, her sisters, brothers and her own children fled back to Margarita López Gómez’s village of Mitontic. They lived there for two months until Juana arrived with her six children. She had no money and decided to visit Margarita to see if Juan Velasco had left her any money. The presence of Juana in the village raised questions and the manner of Juan’s death became known.

Juana, Margarita and Sonia were arrested. Sonia spent two and half years in juvenile detention before being released. Juana was imprisioned for two years for helping cover up the murder. Margarita was sentenced to 15 years in prison for murder as the judge refused to accept that she was drunk at the time and believed her to be the principle culprit. She was imprisoned in a male prison in Venustiano Carranza and, to keep her from the other prisoners, was kept in a cage for nearly four years. Despite this, she became pregnant and had another child while in prison. In 2008 she was transferred to a prison in San Cristobal de las Casas, the capital of Chiapas. Thanks to the intervention of the Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Mujer de Chiapas (Women’s Human Rights Centre in Chiapas) her sentence was reduced to eleven years eight months.

Margarita López Gómez has now served seven years of her sentence, during which she has not been able to see her children. Her five children from her marriage to Juan live with her elderly mother, while the daughter she had prison lives with Sonia, her children and her new partner. Rosa López Santis, lawyer for the Women’s Human Right Centre in Chiapas, has managed to arrange for Margarita to be eligible for early release. However, in order for this to happen, Margarita must pay 34, 000 pesos (around 1, 700 pounds). Evidently she does not have this money.

Margarita’s case is currently being reviewed by the judicial authorities in Chiapas (exp. 378/MR/2010) and Rosa López Santis is pressing for the State Government to pay the fine on her behalf. López Santis says that the case of Margarita López Gómez “illustrates the level of discrimination and violence suffered by women [in Chiapas], they are discriminated against for being indigenous, poor, monolingual [ie not speaking Spanish] illiterate. The authorities are racists and the justice system deficient. The story of these three women should never be repeated.” I heartily agree.

There is a petition circulating asking the State Government of Chiapas to aid Margarita here. A Twitter campaign is also underway under the hashtag #LibertadAMargarita

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Update today 11 February 2012. Margarita López Gómez was freed yesterday in large part thanks to the hardwork of her lawyer Rosa López Santis, from the Women’s Human Right Centre in Chiapas and the  social media campaign led by Patricia Chandomí. The campaign goes on for her to be completely exonerated and to receive compensation for the suffering the Mexican state has put her through.

Filed under: Human Rights in Mexico, Violence Against Women, , , , ,

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