Little progress on longstanding issue
ECATEPEC, Mexico (AP) — On a November afternoon, Mónica Citlalli Díaz left dwelling in a sprawling suburb of Mexico’s capital and headed to the college the place she’d been instructing English for years. It appeared an odd day, however on this one, she by no means arrived at work.
Her absence was a right away pink flag for household and colleagues. Díaz liked her work and was diligent about displaying up. Buddies and kinfolk, conscious of the alarming frequency with which girls disappear right here, papered their metropolis of Ecatepec with flyers that includes her photograph.
After 4 days with none signal of Díaz, 30, they blocked the busy avenue in entrance of her faculty for 3 hours to demand motion from authorities. Two days after the protest, her physique was discovered within the brush alongside a freeway.
Ladies in Mexico state, which wraps round Mexico Metropolis on three sides, had been already dying at a daunting tempo. From January to November, there have been 131 femicides — circumstances of girls killed due to their gender. Díaz was the ninth obvious femicide throughout an 11-day spate of killings in and round Mexico Metropolis from late October to early November.
The nation noticed greater than 1,000 femicides final 12 months — second solely to Brazil in Latin America — and on common, 10 girls or women are killed day by day in Mexico. Mexican officers have acknowledged the femicide fee and violence in opposition to girls generally as a significant drawback for many years, but little progress is clear in nationwide information.
Consultants and advocates say the rampant killings and historical past of femicide in Mexico could be attributed to deep-rooted cultural machismo, systemic gender inequality and latent home violence, in addition to a justice system riddled with issues — cops who received’t take experiences about lacking girls, clumsy or nonexistent investigations, prosecutors and judges who revictimize girls.
With so many circumstances of femicide, most get little consideration. However the current run of killings, paired with the protests from Díaz’s household, put stress on authorities and garnered headlines throughout the nation.
Three days after Díaz disappeared, Supreme Court docket President Arturo Zaldívar known as for a nationwide protocol for dealing with femicides and stated all homicides of girls ought to be investigated as such. The following day, in response to a query at his day by day press convention, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stated he agreed — a nationally televised endorsement from the person who units the nation’s day by day agenda.
Some states have tried to handle the issue by creating prosecutor’s places of work for gender crimes. The federal authorities has declared greater than two dozen gender violence alerts since 2015 on the request of civil society teams. The alerts obligate native, state and federal authorities to take coordinated emergency motion in particular places and to handle biases in entry to justice, prevention and safety measures.
In Mexico state, an alert was declared in 2015 — 5 years after it was requested — and it nonetheless stands. Moreover, Ecatepec is likely one of the state’s 11 municipalities working beneath that alert. However by authorities’ personal admission, good points from the alerts and different measures have been restricted.
Like many in Mexico, Díaz’s household has develop into accustomed to listening to about violence in opposition to girls round them.
“I noticed the circumstances of femicides on tv, and I all the time stated: these poor girls, their poor households, their poor kids,” Massiel Olvera, Díaz’s older sister, stated. “The horrible methods they violate their our bodies, the atrocious methods they harm them, how they go away them.”
Six days after Díaz disappeared, Olvera discovered herself taking a look at pictures of her personal sister’s physique. As photographs started circulating of the newest dumped sufferer, her telephone trembled with incoming messages. The face wasn’t seen, however Olvera acknowledged the pants her sister had been carrying, her footwear, her fingers.
“They left her tossed out like a bag of rubbish.”
Within the wake of the killings of tons of of girls and women within the northern border state of Chihuahua within the late Nineties and early 2000s, Mexico’s decrease chamber of Congress fashioned a particular fee to review femicide. Composed of lawmakers, consultants and officers from throughout Mexico, it produced a examine in 2006.
It discovered that regardless of alarming violence in opposition to girls nationally, it was practically unimaginable to get correct information displaying the scope of the issue. Some states didn’t even present a gender breakdown of victims.
The examine additionally stated the nation’s inequality between women and men was the structural explanation for gender violence. It famous societal machismo and misogyny, and stated frequent citing of poverty, prison teams and drug trafficking obscured the position of gender inequality and ignored the truth that aggressors had been usually identified to victims.
On account of the fee’s work, the Basic Legislation for Ladies’s Entry to a Life Freed from Violence was signed in 2007. It created the gender violence alerts. In 2010, lawmakers added femicide — outlined because the killing of a lady for causes of gender — to the federal prison code.
The following 12 months, Mexico state established its prosecutor’s workplace on gender crimes.
Regardless of the efforts in Mexico state and different jurisdictions, final 12 months there have been greater than double the variety of femicides within the nation than in 2015, in keeping with federal information. A few of that improve may very well be attributed to higher record-keeping — not all Mexican states had codified femicide as a criminal offense till 2017 — however the loss of life toll has risen annually.
Impunidad Cero, a nongovernmental group that research the excessive fee of impunity in Mexico’s justice system, stated in its report this month that the speed of femicides nationally final 12 months was 1.55 per 100,000 girls, which was 125% increased than six years earlier. Some authorities have attributed that to larger consciousness of the difficulty and a willingness to categorise extra circumstances as such.
However the group additionally discovered that in 2021, solely 27% of violent deaths of girls had been labeled as femicides and that girls’s killings had been extra prone to be labeled as unintentional, one thing akin to manslaughter.
President López Obrador has usually attributed violence in opposition to girls to the erosion of values beneath the “neoliberal coverage” of his predecessors — frequent rhetoric when criticizing issues his administration inherited. Just lately, although, he has spoken extra about femicides, together with the feedback at day by day information conferences.
Nonetheless, regardless of 15 years of recognition of the issue of femicides and efforts to handle it, the violence “persists and there are not any clear indicators that it’s declining,” the Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean, a part of the United Nations, stated in a current report.
María de la Luz Estrada, coordinator of Mexico’s Nationwide Citizen Femicide Observatory, put blame on errors in investigations, starting from improper preservation of crime scenes to corruption amongst native and state police, who in some circumstances collude with criminals.
“The issue is within the whole breakdown of the collapsed justice system,” Estrada stated.
Information additionally present femicides are pretty concentrated. 9 of Mexico’s 2,446 municipalities, together with Ecatepec, accounted for 13% of femicides nationally, via September. And 100 municipalities accounted for 58% of the nationwide whole.
The state of Mexico ranks thirteenth among the many nation’s 32 states in femicides per 100,000 girls. By way of October, the state’s tempo this 12 months was beneath final 12 months’s.
Dilcya García, who leads the Mexico state prosecutor’s workplace on gender violence, stated the difficulty is a part of the cement of Mexico’s social construction.
“Violence in opposition to girls may be very difficult to deal with and really advanced to eradicate,” she stated. “The sociocultural patterns, these discovered behaviors … inside personal areas generate and in lots of circumstances demand violence in opposition to girls.”
The day after Díaz’s household blocked the road in Ecatepec, García sat down with them.
The prosecutor advised them she was dedicated to discovering Díaz, however raised the chance she won’t be alive. Later, it could be García who known as Olvera to inform her that they had discovered her sister’s physique.
The case of Diana Velázquez has develop into emblematic of the dysfunction in femicide investigations each in Mexico state and the nation.
Velázquez, a 24-year-old sweet vendor, was killed in Chimalhuacan, east of Mexico Metropolis, in 2017. She left dwelling early one morning to make a telephone name. Her physique was discovered later that day dumped in entrance of a warehouse. She’d been crushed, raped and strangled.
A large mural of Velázquez’s face now graces the positioning the place her physique was found. Names of further femicide victims have been added.
Among the many missteps within the botched investigation: Velázquez was initially recognized by authorities as a person, so it took days for her household to find her on the morgue. After they did, they discovered that her physique had been left on the morgue’s patio and had badly decomposed.
Throughout the investigation, authorities misplaced her clothes, which may have been crucial within the assortment of genetic materials to determine her killer. A decide would later order that her physique be exhumed to search for the clothes, but it surely was by no means discovered.
The person arrested for Velázquez’s homicide, a mototaxi driver, was sentenced in January to 93 years in jail for femicide. However as a result of the investigation was so flawed and a second suspect was by no means arrested, Lidia Florencio Guerrero, Diana’s mom, harbors doubts.
Florencio Guerrero has spent 5 years campaigning for justice. She speaks publicly and leads marches in a T-shirt bearing her daughter’s face.
“This entire justice equipment continues to be a good distance from giving us the reality,” she stated. “Due to every thing the authorities don’t do, the prosecutors, the police, the crime scene technicians.
“We see that these staff are nonetheless there, doing unhealthy work, and the related authorities don’t sanction them.”
Díaz’s household hoped for a special end result in Ecatepec.
The bed room group, inhabitants 1.8 million, has skilled super progress and has one among Mexico’s highest concentrations of poverty. Many come from throughout the nation searching for financial alternatives within the capital. Some areas lack municipal water. Site visitors and flooding plague neighborhoods. There aren’t sufficient police to patrol the streets.
Díaz was lucky to discover a job she liked. She had numerous mates and was devoted to her 11-year-old daughter, Keila, her household stated. She was additionally near her sister’s kids, usually singing and dancing collectively to reggaeton. They known as her sister, relatively than aunt.
She’d had her struggles. Díaz had Keila when she was 19, and she or he left the lady’s father after bouts of home violence, in keeping with her sister Olvera. As soon as, Díaz’s mom got here out and hit the person with a rock to make him cease attacking her daughter, her sister stated. She moved again in together with her dad and mom in a two-story working-class dwelling after leaving Keila’s father.
With a middle-school schooling, Díaz struggled to help her daughter, ready tables in numerous eating places. Then she discovered Fast Studying, a series of English faculties, the place she studied earlier than happening to show for seven years.
This 12 months, Díaz met somebody new at her health club. Jesús Alexis Álvarez Ortiz was an athletic 27-year-old who labored at a Mexico Metropolis resort.
He was possessive, Olvera stated, and she or he started seeing modifications in her sister. She went on a weight-reduction plan and dropped a lot weight her eyes appeared yellow and bloodshot. Generally she wouldn’t come dwelling till midnight or the following morning.
Nonetheless, Díaz by no means missed work. She left each morning at 6 and returned dwelling at noon to have lunch with Keila and relaxation, then went again for a second session of courses that carried on into the night time.
The night Díaz disappeared, her father obtained an odd textual content message from her telephone. “Hey, a good friend goes to let me reside in her home in Hidalgo for just a few months,” it stated. The message didn’t point out her job or Keila.
Her household began calling her telephone however couldn’t get via.
At 10:30 p.m., Díaz’s boyfriend confirmed up, asking whether or not the household had seen her. Álvarez Ortiz appeared nervous, tripping over his phrases and altering his story, Olvera stated.
The following day, Díaz’s dad and mom went to the college, the place they discovered Álvarez Ortiz once more. He went with them to report Díaz’s disappearance to police. Two days later, Álvarez Ortiz stopped answering the household’s messages and calls. His mom reported him lacking.
Authorities say that after leaving her dwelling that afternoon, Díaz took one taxi to a shopping mall, then one other to Álvarez Ortiz’s home. Surveillance video confirmed her enter the house, however by no means go away. Hours later, a SUV arrived and left. Authorities consider it carried Díaz’s physique.
A search of the house turned up Díaz’s blood-stained clothes.
Two days after Díaz’s physique was discovered, police arrested Álvarez Ortiz’s mom. The following day, they arrested him. An post-mortem indicated Díaz had been badly crushed and died from a blow to the top.
Álvarez Ortiz has been jailed on a cost of pressured disappearance. Díaz’s household hopes that at his subsequent listening to, scheduled for March, prosecutors might be prepared so as to add the femicide cost.
A lawyer for Álvarez Ortiz did reply to messages left by The Related Press at a college the place he teaches.
The lack of Díaz — a mom, daughter, sister and aunt — has gutted the household. Olvera, like Diana Velazquez’s mom and the kinfolk of tons of of different victims lately, calls for justice and needs to see all of these concerned held accountable.
“If the authorities don’t give me a good reply, I’m going to return to the road to shut the avenue,” she stated. “I’m going to face there till they take note of me and do justice.”
AP photojournalist Eduardo Verdugo contributed to this report.