Impunity Makes Mexico Dangerous for Everyone

Lesvy Osorio was killed next to a telephone booth on the UNAM campus, long considered a sanctuary by students and the intellectual community. (Nidia Bautista)

Posted by Nidia Bautista – MA Candidate in Global Journalism and CLACS at NYU. This post was written in August, 2017, based on summer research funded by the Tinker Grant. 

Mexico has become a dangerous place for everyone. This summer, during the time I spent investigating feminicide in Edomex, has been terrible for human rights and crime in the country. Ten journalists have been killed this year and Mexico is fast becoming the deadliest country for journalists in the world. Candido Rios, a crime reporter, is the latest journalist killed this month in Veracruz. He was murdered despite being placed under government protection. Mexico’s murder rate has also reached a record high this year. The government has recorded more than 12,100 homicides, with 2,234 murders in June alone. It was the deadliest month in twenty years.

The violence is also ravaging Mexico City, ranked New York Times number one city to visit in 2016. Just this month, patrons of a trendy theater and restaurant called Cine Tonala in the Roma Sur neighborhood were robbed by armed gunman. I used to live in the neighborhood and would often visit Cine Tonala and like many others, up until this summer, I didn’t think this kind of violence would happen in the capital. Previously, it has been easier to relegate this sort of violence to the peripheries. I have spent this summer monitoring and compiling a long list of stories and cases of extreme violence against women in one such periphery. The stories are appalling.

In Ecatepec, a young woman was murdered and mutilated by a butcher just a few minutes away from her house this summer. In the nearby Nezahualcóyotl municipality, an 11-year-old girl was sexually abused and killed by a bus driver. Her father helped her board the “combi”—a system of converted Volkswagen microbuses popular in Edomex—that evening, and her body has found the next day.

I followed one particular case during my trip and this story was recently published by NACLA. The story is about the murder of Lesvy Osorio at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City. Her murder at UNAM, Latin America’s largest public university located in Mexico City, is a tale of pervasive government and societal indifference toward violence against women in the country. Lesvy was found dead, with a telephone cord wrapped around her neck, at UNAM in May. She was found slain next to a telephone booth on the campus, long considered a sanctuary by students and the intellectual community of the Mexican capital. Her murder sparked outrage among students and community members, and dozens mobilized to denounce the murder as feminicide.

I visited the site of Lesvy’s murder when I first arrived. The makeshift altar built on and around the telephone booth, now torn apart by Mexico City’s seasonal rains, shows wear symbolic of the national crisis surrounding gender violence. It’s been four months since she was found dead. Two months ago, Mexico City’s public prosecutor ruled that she committed suicide and detained her boyfriend Jorge Luis González for allegedly failing to intervene. The ruling comes despite video footage released by UNAM that shows him beating Rivera just minutes before her death.

In my reporting, I interviewed a feminist lawyer who condemned the suicide ruling and cited the institutional violence women face when seeking justice. My source called the ruling “legally, socially, and politically aberrant.” She said, “the same system violates your rights and obstructs access to justice.” She is a lawyer that also works helping rape victims in Mexico State. I met her at Ecatepec’s Center for Justice for Women, the government office opened to help women victims of gender violence. As a feminist lawyer, she says there is a direct correlation between access to justice and the prevention of violence.

It may be difficult to connect the surge of murders in the country, which may seem sporadic and motivated by multiple factors, but they are all contextualized by an increasingly generalized state of violence. While I am focusing on violence against women and feminicide more specifically, I find myself thinking what it means to report about these issues during this particularly violent time.

Impunity is an issue: 98 percent of crimes in Mexico fail to result in convictions, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. When it comes to feminicide, only 24 % of the 3,892 feminicides identified in 2012 and 2013 were investigated by authorities and only 1.6 % led to sentencing. Official and human rights groups’ statistics vary, but reports document an increase in feminicide that dates back at least twenty-five years.

Even before this summer research trip, violence and impunity was pervasive in Mexico. The growing list of feminicide cases I have been reporting remain unsolved. And the perpetrators of violence remain free.

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