MADRID – The international community must bring pressure to bear on Mexico’s government to prosecute crimes against women as such cases increase, Mexican attorney Karla Michel Salas, who handles cases involving crimes against women, said Monday.
“No public servant has been punished criminally” in Mexico despite accusations of “systematic negligence” in the investigation of these crimes and the alleged links of public officials to crimes committed against women, Salas said in an interview with Efe.
Violence against women has increased exponentially since 2006, when the so-called “war on drugs” was launched, with 60 percent of the 1,488 murders of women in Ciudad Juarez, a border city located across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, since 1993 occurring in the past six years, Salas, who serves as president of the Association of Democratic Lawyers, said.
Ciudad Juarez first gained notoriety in the early 1990s, when young women began to disappear in the area, with the majority of the cases going unsolved.
“This is a serious problem that Mexico has not officially acknowledged as a war” because such a move would activate international mechanisms for defending human rights, Salas said.
“The role of the state blurs and you have to think about legal alternatives for condemning these criminals,” the attorney said, adding that violence against women became normal in other regions of Mexico outside Chihuahua state.
Salas and attorney David Peña represent Norma Andrade, a human rights activist whose daughter, Lilia Alejandra, was kidnapped, raped and murdered in Ciudad Juarez in 2001.
The Inter-American Human Rights Court found in November 2009 that Mexico’s government failed to prevent and duly investigate the killings of three of women in the “Campo Algodonero” (Cotton Field) case and did not guarantee the victims’ right to life, personal safety and liberty.
The court ordered the government to pay the victims’ families a total of $383,000 in compensation and to hold a ceremony to apologize within a year.
The government finally inaugurated the memorial in November 2011 during a ceremony interrupted by victims’ mothers, who demanded justice and a complete memorial.
The memorial was built on a cotton field in Ciudad Juarez. The bodies of eight women who appeared to have been raped and tortured were found in 2001 in the field.
The tribunal, moreover, ordered the government to build a memorial to victims of gender violence in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s murder capital.
“All we can do is wait and see if there is a spike in the violence” related to drug trafficking, Salas said in response to a question about the Feb. 22 arrest of Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman.
Murders of women will rise if drug-related violence surges, the attorney said.
“In this whole failed strategy against drug trafficking, the component of crimes against women has become invisible,” Salas said.
The Mexican attorney is visiting Madrid for a seminar on the murders of women in Mesoamerica.