Yet again, women fighting endemic impunity in the state of Chihuahua have come under threat.
Just yesterday, Melissa del Bosque of the Texas Observer wrote about the campaign of threats, intimidations, and assassinations aimed at the women of Chihuahua “who speak out against the deaths and disappearances in their communities”. Read her article to put the following in context.
This morning, a “narco-banner” appeared outside of a middle school in Ciudad Júarez. The 6-foot long banner contained a message aimed at Marisela Ortiz, co-founder of “May Our Daughters Return Home“, an organization which seeks justice for young women who have been murdered in Juárez in a string of killings known as femicides.
According to a report in the local “Diario de Juárez” newspaper, the banner stated: “If you want to keep supporting the fucking asshole lawyer Malu, little shit teacher Marisela Ortiz we’re going to fuck up your family starting with your son “el chapolin” Rowe who is already on our list. Sincerly, J.L.___________”.
Marisela Ortiz teaches at the middle school where the banner was hung and was alerted about its content via a phone call from the principal. “Malu” is the nickname of Ortiz’s organizational colleague, Maria Luisa García Andrade, who left Ciudad Juárez two days after part of her house was set on fire. García Andrade was supporting a protest encampment calling for the return of 3 abducted members of the Reyes Salazar family, which has lost 6 people in less than 3 years.
The “Diario de Juárez” reported the banner was left up for a while after the authorities had been alerted.
Tuesday was International Women’s Day – an occasion often used to demand justice for the hundreds of women who have been murdered with impunity in Chihuahua. This year, a group of activists chose to mark the day by installing a memorial plaque on the spot in front of the Government Palace where Marisela Escobedo was gunned down last December.
Marisela Escobedo was a member of “Justice for our Daughters“, an organization of relatives of femicide murder victims. She had tracked down her daughter Rubí’s killer and was demanding that the government execute an arrest warrant. She was shot in front of the seat of state government power while collecting signatures. News of her murder circled the globe and struck a nerve with many familiar with the long saga of femicide cases.
As part of their regular “Walk Against Death Protests“, a group of activists filed paperwork requesting a commemorative plaque for Marisela Escobedo in early February. They installed the thin metal rectangle on the tile sidewalk on March 8th. It read: “The 16th of December of 2010, here fell the body of Marisela Escobedo, murdered for demanding justice in the femicide of her daughter, Rubí” along with the name of the city (Chihuahua) and the installation date.
It was a more permanent memorial than the candles that are periodically left on – and removed from – the sidewalk.
However, by the end of International Women’s Day, the memorial plaque, too, was gone. The government says the plaque didn’t have permission to be there.
The horrific string of rape-murders catapulted Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua City into the international spotlight in the mid-1990s. The message they sent, along with the chronic negligence of the authorities tasked with investigation and prosecution, was one of how little worth was attributed to the lives of young women and girls in the state’s working class.
Nearly two decades later, the femicides continue. The relatives of those murdered – those who valued the lives of their missing loved ones beyond any calculable measure – are now facing the threat of personal harm if they continue to demand the justice they promised over coffins and grave sites to their murdered daughters and sisters.
Why is this not getting the same international attention as the femicides of the young women?
One possible explanation is that their deaths are being lumped together with the other 35,000 people killed since President Felipe Calderon launched a militarized drug war across huge swathes of national territory. It’s getting to the point to where it’s hard to remember all the massacres, much less individual names and life stories.
Mexico doesn’t need any more violent deaths. And it certainly can’t afford to lose women who stand up to institutional impunity with the outrage of mother who has already lost that which is most valuable.
Something that appears to be lost on the “scorched earth” mentality manifesting itself from all sides of the cyclone of violence sweeping across Mexico under the mantle of the Drug War is a simple truth; attacking people demanding justice – and their bloodlines – as if they’re threats to be eliminated is unhinging the bonds that hold society together.