Editorials | March 2007
|Mexico's Military and the Murder at Zongolica (I)|
Erich Adolfo Moncada Cota - OhMyNews
In Mexico violence against poor, indigenous women is commonly left unpunished by the authorities. According to Amnesty International since the mid 1990s (in the states of Guerrero, Chiapas and Oaxaca) there have been at least 60 documented acts of sexual aggression against women reportedly committed by military officers. Since the 1980s Mexico began a gradual militarization process justified by the illegal drug trade, immigration and popular guerrilla groups (like the Zapatista army); especially in rural and poverty-stricken areas.
|Indigenous women confront the Mexican military|
Last May, in San Salvador Atenco, State of Mexico, 23 women denounced being raped and tortured by security forces during a series of social protests. In July, 13 women accused 20 army officers of sexually assaulting them in the town of Castanos, Coahuila.
Perhaps one of the saddest and most deplorable occurrences took place in Orizaba, Veracruz. On Feb. 25 Mrs. Ernestina Ascension Rosario, a 73-year-old indigenous woman living in Soledad Atzompa municipality, was beaten, gagged, tied and raped, allegedly by a group of Mexican army soldiers. She was taken barely alive to Rio Blanco regional hospital but died afterwards. Eyewitness say between four and 11 soldiers committed the crime.
Just days prior to the tragedy the 63rd battalion from the 26th Military Zone arrived in Tetlacingo, according to Soledad Atzompa citizens, who also filed complaints for harassment in their community.
Mrs. Ascension was found by her brothers, Luis and Fernando, inside her home in the community of Tetlacingo, located in an indigenous Nahuatl area. They told reporters Ernestina's last words were "the soldiers jumped all over me."
Soledad Atzompa mayor, Javier Perez Pascuala, set a 30 day ultimatum to solve the crime, warning that his constituents will escalate their demands for justice. He also requested immediate expulsion of military personnel from their lands. Veracruz governor Fidel Herrera promised an extensive investigation but supported the army's operations in his state.
The Secretary of Defense published an official press release (number 017, March 3) stating that it took "several actions, like medical exams and interviews with deployed military personnel, not finding to this moment any incriminatory evidence." That same day the 26 Military Zone notified that "felons using army clothing were responsible for committing the act in an attempt to incriminate federal officers." There was no evidence supporting the allegation whatsoever.
Three days later another press release (019) gave further information about the inquiries. Four officials and 79 regular soldiers were interrogated. Medical examination of the genitalia of all personnel revealed "the lack of laceration in that area," therefore not finding "any type of sexual activity for at least seven days." On March 8 the secretary told the media that semen and blood tests would be performed, with a wait of 15 to 20 days for the results.
The following day leftist opposition leaders of the Democratic Revolutionary Party met with Defense Minister Guillermo Galvan to vent their concerns. The general pledged to bring his subordinates in front of a civil tribunal if charges are proved. Currently army members are judged by special military tribunals.
Media coverage on the issue was pretty scarce. Most of mainstream TV networks didn't mention the events in their broadcasts.
Last Tuesday in a newspaper interview to celebrate his 100 days in office, President Felipe Calderon made the following statement:
"I've been following the case of the woman who was allegedly murdered in Zongolica. The CNDH (National Commission of Human Rights) intervened and autopsy results discovered she died from a neglected chronic gastritis. There are no traces of her being raped. I hope you could have, by your own means, access to that information."
There was a delicate detail concerning this statement. When the CNDH performed the second autopsy on Feb. 8, forensic experts told reporters the results will be delivered in 40 to 60 days. How did the president know about an independent, unfinished inquiry? Could it be because last month he raised military wages by 46 percent to help him fight drug cartels?
National newspaper La Jornada published on Thursday the coroners report (number 070276634 ) which makes clear the "chronic gastritis" theory was far from right. The cause of death was attributed to a "mechanical-traumatic" lesion originated by "craneoencephalic trauma, fracture and Cervical vertebrae luxation." Worse, CNDH examiners found several omissions in the certificate made by the coroner to further investigate the woman's body in search of semen and other conclusive evidence.
Recognized NGOs like Centro Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez, Amnesty International and the World Organization Against Torture are calling the international community to not let this terrible act go unpunished.
References in English:
"Mexico: Federal Authorities Must Lead Atenco investigations"
"Mexico: Fear for Safety/Legal Concern"
"Gender Violence Continues to Claim Its Victims"
References in Spanish:
"Entrevista a FELIPE CALDERON HINOJOSA, PRESIDENTE DE LA REPUBLICA"
"Investigan violacion y muerte de septuagenaria en Veracruz"
"Sedena prometio que civiles juzgaran a soldados si se prueban cargos: PRD"
"Investigacion civil de militares violadores, pide el Centro Prodh"
"Pide CNDH juicio civil para soldados que presuntamente violaron a anciana"
"Insiste Sedena: no hay pruebas contra soldados"
"El pueblo de Soledad Atzompa no cree las versiones del Ejercito," afirma su alcalde