Outrage Over Femicides in Quintana Roo

04/06/21 (written by scortez) – In late March, four women were brutally killed across the state of Quintana Roo. The femicides span the last weekend of March 2021 and occurred in Tulum, Holbox, and Cancún. The murders have sparked outrage across the country and demonstrations have taken place in cities across the state. 

The most high-profile of the femicides occurred on March 27 in Tulum when a Salvadoran woman, Victoria Esperanza Salazar, was allegedly killed by police while she was detained. Animal Político reports that she was held by police for disturbing the public. On social media, videos surfaced from bystanders present during the incident showing four police officers kneeling down on the back of Salazar’s neck until she became unresponsive. Since then, four police officers have been arrested on femicide charges for the murder of Salazar. In addition to their arrest, the Tulum Police Director, Nesguer Vicencio Méndez, was removed from his position. Their role in the killing of Salazar has also brought condemnation from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, who said that her death brought on “shame, pain, and embarrassment.” He vowed to bring justice to those responsible for Salazar’s death. . 

The day after Salazar’s death, the body of Karla was found on March 28, on the shores of the island of Holbox. Her body was found with signs of strangulation and with deep knife cuts. On that same day, the State Attorney’s Office (Fiscalía General de Quintana Roo) announced that a suspect only publicly identified as Roger C. had been arrested for his alleged role in her murder. Authorities believe that the homicide stemmed from a personal dispute between the suspect and the victim. Her murder may also be connected to the disappearances of two other women that went missing before Karla was found dead.

Finally, two more women were killed in Cancún on March 28.  The victims have yet to be identified by authorities. According to Expansión Política, the two women were killed in separate events. The first victim was shot three times in her apartment; the other was burned alive.These deaths rocked the community in Quintana Roo and have resurfaced communal outrage towards the violence that targets women.

Protestors march on the streets of Tulum demanding government accountability after the recent femicides. Source: Impacto Latino.

Demonstrators Protest the Deadly Weekend 

For the past few years, demonstrators have continued to push the federal government to act swiftly to end the epidemic of femicides occurring across the country. Renewed protests kicked off following the reports of the first two femicides of Salazar and Karla in Tulum and Holbox, respectively. On March 28, feminist organizations demanding justice began  protesting in Cancún, Tulum, and Mexico City. The protestors are demanding reforms to the police system that call for the excessive use of force and the maneuver used to kill Salazar. The demonstrations are reminiscent of the November 2020 Cancún protests that resulted in a violent dispersal by police. During that protest, there were reports that police used excessive force and sexually assaulted protestors. The recent femicides that occurred in the state is part of a larger uptick of gendered violence occurring across the country.

Femicide: A National Crisis

Despite the apprehension of those involved in these recent killings, the threat to women’s safety remains an ongoing issue. Approximately 10 women are killed each day due to gender-related violence in Mexico. According to a Justice In Mexico report in 2019, 945 femicides occurred across the country. In that same report, the SNSP highlighted that from 2015 to 2019, the number of femicides increased by 130%. The growing statistics matched with the rise in demonstrations over the past years make this one of Mexico’s most pressing issues that remain unsolved. Human Rights Watch writes that femicides occur because of long-existing social problems such as the tendency to romanticize partner violence and a lack of police investigations. On International Women’s Day, March 2020, protesters demanding justice and accountability for the high femicide rates caught the world’s attention with the massive demonstrations urging the government to act. It is uncertain if the AMLO administration will take on these recent calls for strengthening the protection of women and implement changes that target this issue.

Sources

Vivicano, José. “Mexican government paralyzed in the face of a wave of femicides.” Human Rights Watch. March 3, 2020. 

“Police kill a woman detained in Tulum, Quintana Roo; separate and investigate elements.” Animal Político. March 28, 2021. 

“Un feminicidio conmociona Holbox, la joya caribeña mexicana.” El País. March 28, 2021

Averbuch, Maya. “AMLO, Bukele Condemn Police Murder of Salvadoran Woman in Tulum.” Bloomberg. March 29, 2021. 

Galván, Melissa. “Quintana Roo, el “paraíso” que está de luto por cuatro feminicidios.” Expansión Política. March 29, 2021. 

“Karla trabajaba como taxista en Holbox, hasta que fue asesinada; esto sabemos del caso.” Milenio. March 29, 2021. 

“Mexico: Tulum police accused of ‘murder’ over death of woman knelt on by officers.” The Guardian. March 29, 2021. 

Defining the Candidacy of Félix Salgado Macedonio

Source: El Economista

03/09/21 (written by tmcginnis) – Félix Salgado Macedonio, former senator and now a registered candidate for the governorship of Guerrero for the 2021 state elections, faces multiple allegations of sexual assault, including two accusations of rape. Belonging to the ruling party MORENA (National Regeneration Movement), Reforma reports that Salgado Macedonio has received nearly unwavering support from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) prior to the party withdrawing his name. AMLO believes that it is up to the authorities and “the people” to resolve this matter, without the influence of politiqueros– political hacks and maneuverings. However, as noted by El País, President López Obrador is increasingly alone in that defense. Though MORENA eventually moved to pull Salgado Macedonio’s candidacy around February 27, the party is hardly able to truly impose itself on a candidate who has the support of the president. As a consequence, on March 4, the Electoral Institute of the state of Guerrero reversed the decision of MORENA and made his candidacy official. Thus, given the back and forth nature of defining Salgado Macedonio’s candidacy, it remains critically important to evaluate the mounting pressures from opposition parties, civil society campaigns, and even internal party divisions that led to the aforementioned decisions.

Government Response

According to La Jornada, at one of his traditional morning press conferences held in early February, President López Obrador reiterated his prior position on the matter, stating that the allegations and mounting oppositional pressures against Salgado Macedonio are products of the electoral season. In early January, he expressed that “when there are elections or [political] competition, it’s about discrediting the opponent in one way or another” (author’s translation). Resorting to previously observed strategies, AMLO has blamed the opposition and denounced “political lynchings,” as well as what he perceives as malicious media campaigns. According to the relevant minutes of a February 18 press conference compiled by El Universal, in response to questions regarding the reactions of various feminist groups and sectors that have denounced the candidacy, AMLO responded by arguing that those groups have the right to demonstrate and express themselves, just as the voters in Guerrero who support Salgado Macedonio have their right to elect him as their representative. He continued, defending the decisions made by the polls and the people of Guerrero. “First you have to trust the people, the people are the ones who decide” (author’s translation).

AMLO’s support should come as no surprise when considering possible motivations. For example, the president’s ability to govern comfortably hinges on the June 6 election, given that the entire Chamber of Deputies, 30 of the 32 state congresses, 15 governorates, and thousands of local offices will be renewed. 

However, though AMLO endorses Salgado Macedonio’s candidacy, he faces divisions on the matter within his own party. For example, among the most vocal, Olga Sánchez Cordero, the Secretary of the Interior and the first woman to hold the aforementioned position, stated that the respect for a woman’s right to live a life free of violence remains a critical precondition for political candidacy. Moreover, according to Animal Político, she sustained that political parties remain responsible for evaluating whether prospective candidates are qualified and comply with the established 3 out of 3 (3 de 3) rule regarding gender-based violence: candidates have not been sentenced for 1) familial violence, 2) sexual violence, or 3) non-compliance with the payment of alimony. Approved by the National Electoral Institute (Instituto Nacional Electoral) in late 2020, this initiative is supposed to protect women and ensure that positions of power are not held by abusers and violators. However, as elucidated by the case of Salgado Macedonio, many of the complaints have been ignored or not prioritized in a timely manner.

Additionally, according to El Universal, Senator Germán Martínez asked that Salgado Macedonio resign on his own volition and submit himself for investigation, arguing that this predicament should not fall on the National Regeneration Movement as a whole. “You don’t deserve it [the candidacy], women don’t deserve it, Guerrero doesn’t deserve it” (author’s translation). 

In a significant show of internal party division, El País reports that over 100 deputies from the National Regeneration Movement signed a joint letter addressed to party leadership to withdraw the candidacy of Salgado Macedonio. Subsequently, this letter was ratified by an additional 100 party affiliates and supporters of President López Obrador.

Civil Society Response

Source: El Universal

According to Reforma, many prominent actresses, writers, and activists took to social media to spearhead online campaigns against President López Obrador’s endorsement of Salgado Macedonio. As noted by MSN, tens of thousands of women, either through means of protest or social media, demanded that the president “rompa el pacto” — break the “pacto machista” or sexist pact that permits this level of impunity for male authorities. Activists even transformed the meaning of AMLO’s response — “ya chole” (translated as “enough” or “give me a break”) — which he used when continuously questioned about Salgado Macedonio’s candidacy, into a trending hashtag to express both disgust and dissatisfaction with misogyny, femicide, and indifference toward female voices. 

Source: Mexico News Daily

Why Salgado Macedonio does not have a sentence 

Mario Delgado, the National Regeneration Movement’s formal leader, defends Salgado’s candidacy on the grounds that he has not yet been convicted of any crime and therefore maintains his right to participate in electoral contests. With this in mind, the fact that Salgado Macedonio does not presently have a sentence raises several important points and inquiries about the effectiveness of Mexico’s current criminal justice system. Paola Zavala Saeb, a human rights lawyer and political analyst, makes several significant observations about the aforementioned issue, a few of which will be discussed here. 

Citing findings from a 2019 México Evalúa report, Saeb states that Guerrero represents one of the worst states with respect to confidence in criminal authorities. Furthermore, victims prefer not to report out of fear and Salgado Macedonio’s high-profile status compounds this issue even more. If victims do overcome their fears and proceed with filing a report, Guerrero lacks adequate legal representation. In fact, according to México Evalúa, there is only one legal representative for every 98 victims. Additionally, in Guerrero, only 1.6% of investigations pursued by the public prosecutor’s office lead to prosecution before a judge. Furthermore, nationwide, as detailed by Animal Político, between 2015 and 2018, as little as 5% of cases involving rape and sexual abuse received formal sentences, with only a fifth of complaints officially sent to the courts.

With the aforementioned challenges, it remains to be seen whether the accusations against Salgado Macedonio will be taken seriously and the protests of women heeded with equal weight. 

Sources

Angel, Arturo. “En cinco años, solo 5 de cada 100 denuncias por abuso sexual y violación terminaron en sentencia.” Animal Político. February 4, 2021.

Areta, Itxaro. “Sánchez Cordero dice que no violentar a las mujeres es condición necesaria para ser candidato.” Animal Político. February 18, 2021. 

Barragán, Almudena. “Más de 100 diputadas de Morena exigen que se retire la candidatura de Salgado Macedonio tras las acusaciones de violación.” El País. January 12, 2021. 

El Universal. “‘Félix, rompe el pacto’, pide Germán Martínez a Salgado Macedonio.” El Universal. February 18, 2021. 

El Universal. “La mañanera de AMLO, 18 de febrero, minuto a minuto.” El Universal. February 18, 2021. 

Manetto, Francesco. “El ‘caso Salgado Macedonio’ abre un frente en Morena ante las elecciones de junio.” El País. February 21, 2021. 

Martínez, Fabiola and Roberto Garduño. “Pueblo y autoridades deben definir candidatura de Salgado Macedonio: AMLO.” La Jornada. February 17, 2021. 

México Evalúa. “Hallazgos 2019: Seguimiento y evaluación del sistema de justicia penal en México.” México Evalúa. 2020. 

Peterson Farah, Diego. “#YaChole y el pacto.” MSN Noticias. February 20, 2021. 

Raziel, Zedryk. “Candidatura de Salgado divide a Morena y genera sospechas de encubrimiento.” Animal Político. February 17, 2021. 

Reforma Staff. “Las mujeres que acusan a Félix Salgado de violación.” Reforma. February 2021. 

Yucatan Times. “Morena ‘pulls’ Félix Salgado Macedonio’s candidacy after allegations of rape and sexual abuse.” Yucatan Times. February 27, 2021. 

Zavala Saeb, Paola. “7 razones por las que Salgado Macedonio no tiene sentencia.” Animal Político. February 3, 2021

Ex-governor of Puebla arrested for the 2005 torture of journalist Lydia Cacho

02/09/21 (written by aahrensviquez) – On February 3, 2021, federal prosecutors arrested the former governor of Puebla, Mario Marín Torres, for the torture of journalist Lydia Cacho in Acapulco, Guerrero. The arrest was announced by the current governor of Puebla via Twitter.

Marín had been hiding in Acapulco, in his sister’s home, for eight days. Federal prosecution had been surveilling the house for four days before his arrest.

An Arrest After 15 Years of Impunity

The detention comes 15 years after the torture of Cacho by members of the Puebla police force in Cancún in December 2005. The torture of the journalist is widely regarded as retaliation for the publication of Cacho’s 2005 book, The Demons of Eden: The Power that Protects Child Pornography (Los demonios del Edén, el poder que protege a la pornografía infantil), that exposed a prostitution and child pornography ring that involved prominent politicians and businessmen, including former Governor Marín. 

Marín was implicated in the ordering of the torture when an anonymous source released a recording between the former governor and businessman José Kamel Nacif, one of the other figures implicated in Cacho’s book. In the call, Nacif urged the “gober precioso” (or “precious governor”) to retaliate against Cacho. Cacho filed charges against Marín, Nacif, and other state figures in March 2006.

The lack of accountability for those responsible has been a source of international embarrassment for the Mexican justice system. After no action was taken by the Mexican government in the years following her torture, Cacho turned to The Human Rights Committee of the United Nations (UN). In 2018, the UN Committee issued a ruling that found that Mexico had not fulfilled its obligation to investigate this case and hold those responsible accountable. 

Since the ruling, Mexican federal prosecutors brought the charges against the police commanders that carried out the torture ordered by their superiors. In April 2019, arrest warrants were issued for Marín and Nacif. They both fled, evading arrest. After a brief cancellation of those warrants in November 2020, the warrants were re-issued in December 2020. Marín was considered a fugitive by authorities until his arrest in Acapulco.

Cacho reacted to the arrest on Twitter. She has been working with organizations such as Europol and Interpol to locate Marín and Nacif since the issuance of the initial arrest warrants in 2019.

Prosecutors announced that Marín will be awaiting trial in Quintana Roo. Nacif still remains at large.

Sources

Ahrens-Víquez, Ashley. “Arrest warrants issued in 2005 torture case of Lydia Cacho.” Justice in Mexico. December 14, 2020.

“Detienen en Acapulco al exgobernador de Puebla, Mario Marín.” Proceso. February 3, 2021.

Espino, Manuel. “Detienen en Acapulco a Mario Marín, exgobernador de Puebla.” El Universal. February 3, 2021.

Flores Contreras, Ezequiel. “La casa donde detuvieron a Mario Marín en Acapulco es de su hermana, la profesora Alicia Marín.” Proceso. February 3, 2021. 

González, Mario. “Detienen al exgobernador de Puebla Mario Marín, según el actual mandatario poblano.” CNN en Español. February 3, 2021.
“Lydia Cacho y Artículo 19 aplauden detención de Mario Marín.” Proceso. February 3, 2021.

CNDH’s 2020 Recommendations on Human Rights Violations

Logo for Mexico's National Human Rights Commission
Photo: Wikimedia.

01/21/21 (written by kheinle) — Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) issued 90 standard recommendations (recomendaciones) in 2020 against offending institutions and local, state, and federal bodies. The ombudsman generates these formal reports for the government agency against which a complaint (queja) about a human rights violation has been levied. The recommendations are a list of steps that the accused parties need to take in order to repair and remedy the damages caused.

CNDH’s 2020 Recommendations

Of the 90 such recommendations issued in 2020, the most were against Mexico’s Institute of Social Security (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, IMSS), which received 12. This was followed by the Institute for Social Security and Services for State Workers (Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de los Trabajadores del Estado, ISSSTE) and its executive leadership (Dirección General del ISSSTE), which had a combined ten. Mexico’s National Institute of Migration (Instituto Nacional de Migración, INM) had six recommendations.

The only other authorities that received more than three recommendations were the Secretary of Security and Civilian Protection (Secretaría de Seguridad y Protección Ciudadana, SSPC), the Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía General de la República, FGR), and the State Attorney General’s Office of Chiapas (Fiscalía General del Estado de Chiapas), each with four. Below that, four institutions received three recommendations each, and another eight received two each. The remaining 87 bodies all received just one recommendation, the majority of which were municipal governments. These 90 recommendations are categorized differently than CNDH’s general recommendations, recommendations for grave violations, and recommendations based on the national protocol to prevent torture. For more information on CNDH and the recommendation process, check out Justice in Mexico’s special report on human rights violations.

Mexico’s Military and Human Rights

The building headquarters for Mexico's Institute of Social Security located in Mexico City.
Headquarters for Mexico’s Institute of Social Security (IMSS) located in Mexico City. Photo: Wikimedia.

Mexico’s military is among the institutions that regularly receive CNDH recommendations. The military’s presence in the streets increased as former President Felipe Calderón took on Mexico’s brutally violent organized crime groups during his 2006-2012 presidency. As Justice in Mexico reported in its 2012 publication, “Armed with Impunity: Curbing Military Human Rights Abuses in Mexico,” Calderón’s massive deployment of troops increased civilian exposure and vulnerability to abuses by military personnel.

This civil-military relationship in Mexico largely mirrors that of fellow Latin American countries in Central and South America. As Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America wrote in a July 2020 article, “The past decade has already seen a worrying erosion of the region’s transitions from military rule to civilian democracy.” Despite being one of the country’s most trusted institutions, Mexico’s military is notorious for its human rights violations. The CNDH’s recommendations over the years document this civil-military relationship, as discussed below.

Secretary of National Defense

In 2011, Mexico’s Secretary National Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA) received 25 recommendations, and another 14 in 2012. That number then dropped to three in 2013 and one in 2014 under the Peña Nieto administration (2012-2018). It has since registered between one and five recommendations per year for the six subsequent years, including three in 2020. This brings SEDENA’s ten-year total since 2011 to 62 such recommendations. SEDENA also was part of two general recommendations (recomendaciones generales) received in 2020, as well as two recommendations involving grave violations of human rights (recomendación por violaciones graves).

SEDENA's director, General Sandoval González, stands in front of a historic painting and the Mexican flag.
General Luis Cresencio Sandoval González, head of SEDENA. Photo: Gobierno de México.

Its most recent recommendation received, Recomendación 78/2020, is a reminder of the slow pace at which human rights violations are often reported, verified, and publicized. Released on December 10, 2020, the CNDH recommendation was directed to General Luis Cresencio Sandoval González, the head of SEDENA. It details the agency’s investigation and findings into the case of the arbitrary detention and torture of a soldier who was unlawfully apprehended in Morelia, Michoacán by members of the then named Judicial Military Police (Policía Judicial Militar). The military police allegedly thought the soldier was a member of a drug cartel, feigning his way a member of the military. After his arrest and subsequent torture, the victim was detained in a prison in Tepic, Nayarit. The incident happened in April 2010; the case was filed in 2017; and nearly three and half years later, CNDH published its findings in 2020.

CNDH included several recommendations for SEDENA, the institution in violation, to move forward in addressing and correcting its mistakes. In addition to “repairing damage caused to the victim,” CNDH also recommended instituting human rights training courses for SEDENA personnel that “focus on eradicating arbitrary detention, illegal holding, preventing and eradicating torture and other cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.”

Secretary of the Navy

Mexico’s Secretary of the Navy (Secretaría de Marina-Armada, SEMAR), meanwhile, had no standard recommendations issued against it in 2020 and just two in 2019. Over the past ten years, SEMAR received 39 recommendations, about a third less than SEDENA’s total since 2011. Its annual recommendations have varied between one and seven per year, with its highest tallies in 2013 and 2016. In 2020, SEMAR also was named in the same two general recommendations issued against SEDENA. SEMAR did, however, receive three separate recommendations involving incidences of grave violations.

SEMAR did take an important step toward protecting human rights when it signed a Collective Agreement to Collaborate (Convenio General de Colaboración) with CNDH in December 2020. Rooted in principles of building a “culture of legality” and “respect for human rights,” the agreement focuses on “preventing, training, and promoting” human rights programs between SEMAR and CNDH. This agreement comes nearly ten years after the last Collective Agreement between the two was signed in March 2011. Since then, SEMAR and CNDH have signed and implemented a number of more specific agreements to develop and execute courses, certifications, and training programs to ground SEMAR’s officers and personnel in protecting human rights. 

Military Training to Protect Human Rights

The cover image of the Falsas Salvaguardas report
Photo: Equis.

Nevertheless, a recent report found serious concerns with the military’s handling of human rights violations. The report, “False Safeguards: Training of the armed forces on human rights and gender (2010-2019),” was published the week before CNDH’s Recomendación 78/2020 against SEDENA. Data Cívica, EQUIS Justicia para las Mujeres, and Intersecta – a mix of several civic institutions and national and international organizations – authored the report.

“False Safeguards”

The ten-year investigation argues that the military has failed to follow through on recommendations and even mandates made by national and international organizations to properly train members of Mexico’s military on human rights protections. This includes failure to comply with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ ruling from a landmark case involving Ines Fernández Ortega and Valentina Rosendo Cantú, two indigenous women who were raped by Mexican soldiers in 2002. It also includes the IACHR’s decision in 2018 that found the Mexican officials responsible for the disappearance of three family members in 2009 in Chihuahua: Nitza, José, and Rocío.

SEDENA, SEMAR, and the National Guard Respond

The three branches of the military named in “False Safeguards” – SEDENA, SEMAR, and the National Guard – all pushed back immediately on the report’s finding. For its part, SEDENA argued that is has spent “hundreds of millions of pesos on training activities.” It continued, stating that the report does not consider all of the work that SEDENA has done “to guarantee that the injustices committed against Inés Fernández Ortega, Valentina Rosendo Cantú, Nitza Paola Alvarado Espinoza, José Ángel Alvarado Herrera, and Rocío Irene Alvarado Reyes don’t happen again.” SEMAR and the National Guard made similar arguments, noting that they either were not required to comply with the IACHR’s ruling or simply did not have the capacity to provide all of the information requested from the report’s authors on their specific human rights training and protocols.

To read the full report, “False Safeguards: Training of the armed forces on human rights and gender (2010-2019)” (“Falsas salvauardas: Las capacitaciones de las fuerzas armadas en derechos humanos y género”), click here.

Sources:

“Great News for Inés Fernández Ortega and Valentina Rosendo Cantú!” Amnesty USA. October 6, 2010.

Daly, Catherine et al. “Armed with Impunity: Curbing Military Human Rights Abuses in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico. July 2012.

Isacson, Adam. “In Latin America, COVID-19 Risks Permanently Disturbing Civil-Military Relations.” Washington Office on Latin America. July 20, 2020.

“Falsas Salvaguardas: Las capacitaciones de las fuerzas armadas en derechos humanos (2010-2019).” Data Cívica, Equis, Intersecta. December 2020.

Camacho Servin, Fernando. “Comisionado de ONU-DH cuestiona manejo de derechos humanos en México.” La Jornada. December 9, 2020.

Flores Martínez, Raúl. “Semar y CNDH capacitarán a marinos en protección de DH.” Excelsior. December 10, 2020.

“México no ha cumplido con mandatos de la Corte IDH para capacitar a militares en derechos humanos.” Animal Político. December 10, 2020.

“A 2 años de que la CorteIDH culpó a México de la desaparición de 3, la familia sigue sin justicia.” Sin Embargo. December 21, 2020.

“CNDH emite recomendación a Sedena por caso de integrante del Ejército torturado por militares.” Proceso. December 31, 2020.

Web. “Recomendaciones.” Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos. Last accessed January 3, 2021.

Arrest warrants issued in 2005 torture case of Lydia Cacho

Photo: Expansión Política.
Left to right: Lydia Cacho, Mario Marín Torres, and José Kamel Nacif. Photo: Expansión Política

12/14/20 (written by aahrensviquez) – Mexican federal prosecutors re-issued warrants on December 4, 2020 for the arrest of Puebla’s former governor, Mario Marín Torres; businessman José Kamel Nacif; and Pueblas’s former subsecretary of Public Security, Hugo Adolfo Karam Beltrán, for the unlawful detention and torture of journalist Lydia Cacho in 2005. This highly publicized case has largely been seen as illustrative of the dangers of being a journalist in Mexico and the government’s failure to hold those responsible to account.

The Case of Lydia Cacho

In 2005, Mexican journalist and activist Lydia Cacho published her book The demons of Eden: the power that protects child pornography (Los demonios del Edén, el poder que protege a la pornografía infantil). The book exposed the protection that businessmen Jean Succar Kuri and José Kamel Nacif were receiving from politicians and other businessmen when they were accused of creating a prostitution and child pornography ring. On December 16, 2005, months after the publication of her book, Cacho was arrested in Cacún at the Center for Women’s Comprehensive Assistance (Centro Integral de Atención a la Mujer) headquarters by members of Puebla’s judicial police force on charges of defamation. She was then transferred back to Puebla to face trial.

It was during her transfer, from December 16 to 17, 2005, that Cacho was tortured by members of the police force. According to ARTÍCULO 19, an independent, nonpartisan organization in Mexico and Central America that advocates for the freedom of press, during the ten  hours Cacho was detained, the authorities did not give her food or administer her bronchitis medication, nor was she allowed to sleep. Cacho was only allowed to use the bathroom once and place one phone call during this period. She was subjected to psychological and physical torture, sexual abuse, and threats.

Cacho was eventually released from custody on bail. She went to trial on January 17, 2006 and was fully exonerated on the charges of calumny. 

On February, 14, 2006, in an explosive exposé, an anonymous source publicized a phone call between Governor Marín and businessman Nacif that took place prior to Cacho’s 2005 detention. In the phone call, Nacif urges Marín to arrest Cacho so that she would be sexually assaulted in prison in retaliation for her calumny against him. The governor reassures him, saying that he will deliver a “f**king knock over the head” (“p*nche coscorrón”) to Cacho because in Puebla “the law is respected” (author’s own translation). On March 13, 2006, Cacho filed charges against Marín and Nacif, as well as other state figures.

15 Years of Impunity

In the 15 years since Cacho was detained and arrested, only two people have been sentenced in relation to the case. Two members of the police force, including former Puebla police commander Juan Sánchez Moreno, were convicted of carrying out the torture. So far, however, there has been no accountability for those who ordered the torture. 

The Cacho case eventually made it to the docket of the Mexican Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación, SCJN). The justices launched an investigation of the case and the involvement of Puebla’s then-governor Marín. However, in a surprise ruling on November 29, 2007, the SCJN voted six to four to not go forward in prosecuting the case. The court found that though there were some violations of Cacho’s rights, they were not severe and did not merit the involvement of the SCJN. At the time, René Delgado, the former editor of the newspaper Reforma, called the 2007 vote a “monumental homage to impunity and cynicism” (author’s own translation).

Seeking justice elsewhere, ARTÍCULO 19 filed a petition on Cacho’s behalf to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations (UN). The Committee ruled in Cacho’s favor in 2018, formally recognizing human rights abuses against the journalist. They determined that Cacho’s detention was arbitrary, meaning that there was little to no evidence that she had committed a crime at the time of the arrest. The Commitee also found that the arrest and torture had been retaliatory in nature. Additionally, they noted that the sexual nature of Cacho’s torture indicated that she had been discriminated against because of her gender, a protected characteristic. Finally, the Committee found that the state had not fulfilled its obligation to investigate this case and hold those responsible accountable.

Two months after ARTÍCULO 19 presented their petition to the UN, Mexican federal prosecutors brought the charges against the police commanders that carried out the torture ordered by their superiors. In 2016 Succar, who Cacho exposed in her 2005, was indeed convicted of child pornography and child sexual abuse in Cancún and was convicted to 112 years of prison.

Arrest Warrants Issued for Marín, Nacif, and Karam

Finally, in April of 2019, arrest warrants were issued for Marín, Nacif, and Karam. However, they were cancelled in November 2020 by the Third Circuit Court in Cacún through a writ of amparo. Judge María Elena Suárez Préstamo of the First Unitary Court (Primer Tribunal Unitario) reissued the warrant on December 4, 2020 for their arrest after reviewing the case. Marín, Nacif, and Karam are currently fugitives. 

Mexican Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero reported in July that Nacif was traced to Lebanon and disclosed that they were in communication with the Lebanese government to process his extradition. Cacho sharply criticized Gertz in an interview with W Radio Mexico, claiming that she had located Nacif through her coordination with Europol and Interpol and Gertz had risked her case by making that information and strategy public. She also rebuked him for mishandling her case. She posited that through her work, she and her team also located Marín and Karam, but neither of them have been detained either. Cacho is suspicious that Gertz may have some vested interest in not seeing her case through.

2020 Continues the Trend of Violence Toward Journalists in Mexico

In an article in El País, ARTÍCULO 19 described the Cacho case as a “fight against impunity in one of the most violent countries in the world to practice journalism.” Indeed, violence against journalists in Mexico have been widely publicized and well-documented over many years. Justice in Mexico consistently includes a section addressing violence against journalists in its  yearly Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico Special Report.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), from 1992 to 2020 there were 53 confirmed cases of journalists killed, 67 unconfirmed cases, and four cases of media-support workers were killed in Mexico (“Explore all CPJ data”). The CPJ identifies both homicides cases with motives that have been confirmed to have been related to the journalist’s profession, as well as cases with unconfirmed motives. In fact, this year, the CPJ identifies Mexico as the country with the most homicide cases with five confirmed motives in 2020, followed by Iraq and the Philippines each with three confirmed journalist murders. In 2020, the following journalists were  murdered in Mexico:

  • María Elena Ferral Hernández of El Diario de Xalapa and El Quinto Poder was murdered on March 30, 2020;
  • Jorge Miguel Armenta Ávalos of Última Palabra and Medios Obson was murdered on May 16, 2020;
  • Pablo Morragares Parraguirre from PM Noticias was murdered on August 2, 2020;
  • Julio Valdivia of El Mundo was murdered on September 9, 2020; and 
  • Israel Vázquez of El Salmantino was murdered on November 9, 2020.

The aforementioned ARTÍCULO 19 has not released their most updated data on violence against journalists in 2020. However, the organization released their tallies for the first six months of 2020 (from January to June 2020). The findings are alarming. The report documented 406 instances of violence or aggression against journalists including cases of threats, harassment, assault, murder, and disappearance, among others. This is up 45% from the 280 cases they identified during the same period in 2019.

In an effort to address the violence against journalists, the Mexican government created the Mechanism for the Protection of Defenders of Human Rights and Journalists (Mecanismo de Protección a Personas Defensoras de Derechos Humanos y Periodistas). Its objective is to provide protection for journalists that were threatened, including temporary relocations, armored vehicles, and security escorts. According to the Mexican National Commission for Human Rights (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos) report, there is a 90% impunity rate for crimes committed against journalists. Not only does the government often fail to protect journalists and bring their perpetrators to justice, public officials are often the perpetrators of said violence against journalists. ARTÍCULO 19 identifies public officials as the assailants of 199 cases out of the 406 cases of aggression against journalists that were identified in the first six months of 2020.

The Cacho case is a poignant, public exemplification of the issues facing Mexican journalists. She was victim to institutionalized torture at the hands of public officials in retaliation for holding power to account. Even with evidence against her assailants so widely publicized, she was unable to obtain justice from the government. Even now that her case was reopened, the arrest warrants have not been carried out, with very little hope that they ever will be. Moreover, she maintains that the justice system has continued to mishandle her case. Her public ire after 15 years is the same frustration that is inherent to being a journalist in Mexico.

Sources

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“ONU reconoce violaciones a los derechos de la periodista Lydia Cacho.” ARTÍCULO 19. August 2, 2018.

“Demanda CNDH esclarecer el 90% de crímenes contra periodistas que permanece en impunidad lacerante- 13 en los últimos once meses-por falta de investigaciones prontas, diligentes, profesionales y eficaces de Procuradurías y Fiscalías.” Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos. November 2, 2019.

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ARTÍCULO 19. “15 años de impunidad en el ‘caso Lydia Cacho’.” El País. November 16, 2020.

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