The controversial candidacy of an official accused of (at least) five sexual crimes has unleashed social disenchantment against the Government of the Mexican president
The image of the metal fence that the Mexican government put up around the National Palace on March 8, to protect itself from attacks by radical protesters, is the symbol of one of the most important fronts of resistance to the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Among crosses, candles and phrases, to remember the nearly 4,000 women who are murdered each year, Nicole’s name was painted: a seven-year-old girl, who was last seen a week earlier when she went out for a bike ride. for its urbanization. The day after International Women’s Day, her body was found dead. They killed her. She died of suffocation. Near his name on that metal skirt that covered Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s bunker, a graffiti read: “If one day I don’t show up, don’t light candles, burn everything ”.
Does López Obrador have a pending account with Mexican society, where the underworld, political silence, and impunity claim the lives of more than ten women every day? “Yes”, lawyers, activists, and Mexican victims of abuse respond to this newspaper. And they give the same answer when asked if they are outraged by the fact that an official accused of rape could aspire until this week (with the protection of the Government) to one of the highest political positions.
Nicole is the name and flag of those who confront the lack of will to stand up to the political and social cancer that allows a woman (regardless of age or socioeconomic status) to be disappeared, raped, or killed. And, of course, in most cases, without anyone being punished for it. Today is Nicole, but before there were many others. Last year, for example, it was Fatima Aldrighetti, another little girl, also seven years old, whose body was found inside a plastic bag on land without an owner, five days after she was kidnapped when leaving school. She was tortured and raped. And his case, rugged to the core, considers previous sexual abuse by the father, exposes a network of extortionists and raises a myriad of unknowns yet to be solved.
But those names are only two of a list that each day lengthens its final point. The numbers? Between 2007 and 2015, 19,747 women were killed. In 2016 and 2017, the number of daily femicides went from eight to nine; and as of 2018, every day, more than ten women die violently. The illustrious Argentine journalist Tomás Eloy Martínez said that the numbers were shocking, but not moving. Perhaps the same thing happens in Mexico, where the figures are always opaque and where the reality, outside of the official numbers, is not only moving, but it is heartbreaking and implausible. Why? Because in that country rapes, disappearances and murders are not always reported. Because there, if an official commits one of these crimes, nothing may happen. Sure, as long as it is loyal to the Government in turn.
The ‘Salgado Macedonio’ case: political loyalty that covers up sexual crimes
It is not easy to understand the violent reality that women live in Mexico. In order to begin to digest the magnitude of the problem, it is essential to consider that silence and judicial opacity operate at all levels of public administration, the result of widespread corruption to the point of metastasis, which protects crimes and abuses.
It is enough to review the recent and controversial case of the politician and former senator Félix Salgado Macedonio to verify that the relationship between corruption, violence, and impunity, has left as a result a society that wants to ‘burn everything, because it no longer trusts in the State as guarantor of security. Five days after International Women’s Day, Morena (López Obrador’s political party) announced the name of that particular official as its candidate for governor for the state of Guerrero (one of the most violent) ahead of the next local elections. June 6. It turns out that at the end of last year, several Mexican media revealed that he had (at least) five accusations of sexual abuse: two for rape, and three for harassment and abuse. However, the leadership of the party and the lopezobradorista union continued to support his candidacy for the highest local office.
And in the face of the outrage of society? Before this, López Obrador has only responded with silence, or with absurd evasions that put the country’s institutional framework in check, things like: “Why prevent the people from being the one to decide?”, “Sanction him, but do not take away the right to participate ”, or“ Let the people decide if they are a bad candidate ”. Let us remember that one of the giant sentences projected with light towards the National Palace, during the demonstrations of March 8, read: ” A rapist will not be a governor .” However, it seems that this message is still part of the data that the executive always refuses to admit and consider (López Obrador often defends himself against the opposition with the iconic phrase: “ I have other data ”).
But the ‘crux’ of this matter is not only that the president’s party defends the candidacy of someone accused of serious sexual crimes, but the reasons why the INE (National Electoral Institute) finally annulled his candidacy. Which were? Simply that Salgado Macedonio did not present the expense report of his pre-campaign in a timely manner. That is to say, for a merely bureaucratic minutia. What about complaints of sexual abuse? None of them were an impediment for his political aspirations to continue. Much less, the fact that he had publicly threatened with death the electoral advisers on whom the continuity or cancellation of his candidacy depended (at one of his rallies he exhibited a coffin with a photograph of one of them).
In this regard, the Argentine journalist and writer, Diego Fonseca, published a harsh column in ‘The New York Times, entitled ‘ Félix Salgado Macedonio es Morena ‘. “Violence must be condemned, in speech and, above all, in action. Justice, for example, must act ex officio against Salgado Macedonio for direct threats of violence. And Morena should cut ties and expel him from the party. But it will not happen, because Macedonio is Morena ”. And ditch: “it strips the intimate feeling of the organization: conservative caudillismo son of another era, incapable of coexisting with the press, the opposition, civil society and the democratic institutions of the 21st century.”
Everything seems that the party in power owes something to that man. The writer Ángeles Mastretta puts her finger on the sore wondering exactly that: “What do they owe (in Morena) to Salgado Macedonio?”, She launched, indignant, in an interview for a Mexican radio station. Of course, because he does not conceive that the only argument in defense of that official is that he does not (yet) have a sentence against him, despite the serious sexual crimes for which he is accused, and that allows him to preserve his political rights.
The situation is serious, not only because Mexico has become a clandestine cemetery for women, but because of the impunity that allows it. In this regard, the investigation ‘Impunity in malicious homicide and femicide: 2020 report’ of the Impunidad Cero portal, releases chilling data: in five years femicides increased 137%, and during 2020 (considered the most violent in history) half of them went unpunished. And, for example, of ten women murdered in Guerrero (the long-awaited state of Félix Salgado Macedonio), the probability that someone will be punished for that is less than 1%.. Worse is the case of Baja California Sur (a well-known tourist destination for Californians): there, if a woman is raped and killed, the probability that someone will go to jail for that reason is 0%.
“The Government has never done anything for us”
There were two conditions that they set to accept this interview: appearing hooded (via Zoom), and having a distorted voice. The reason? ” The unstoppable persecution against the activists”, they settled. They also confessed that the journalist who writes these lines is the first male to be granted an interview.
It is enough to take a dip in the Twitter account of ‘Mujeres de la Sal’ (a “feminist and radical collective”, as they define themselves that way) to find stories like those of Iris, Reyna, Esmeralda, Andrea: four women who were murdered by men “who claimed to love them.” Men who, of course, are still free. For this reason, when asked about their position regarding the current government, they do not hesitate to answer: “ We know that women are not the government’s priority. Neither in this nor have we been for the previous ones… And it is not that there is no political will to solve the femicides, the Government knows perfectly everything they have decided to ignore and allow ”.
They are called ‘Mujeres de la Sal’ because they are from Salina Cruz, a coastal town in the southern state of Oaxaca, specifically in the Isthmus area (considered, within the same state, as the most dangerous to be a woman) where, “the violence against them is very normalized and deeply rooted ”, as they tell this newspaper. There, according to the ‘Zero Impunity’ report, when a woman is murdered, the probability that an investigation will be started, a trial will be held and someone will go to prison, is the same as in Baja California Sur: 0%.
Does the current government have a pending account with women? “Yes, it does. The Government (which they consider as “the highest expression of patriarchy”) has never been concerned about tackling the problem of femicides ”, he answers firmly. Have members of trafficking networks and prostitution consumers been protected from the highest levels of the Government? “Yes, and at all levels. If you only knew the cases that come to us. Battered, exploited women, I mean. After investigating who the couples of these girls are, politicians, ministerial agents, civil servants appear… ”, he says.
The radicalization of groups like this is not a coincidence. The photograph they describe of their place of origin is one in which all organized crime activities have taken root very difficult to uproot and where many women have simply been treated as merchandise. In this regard, he has a very suspicious recent case. “Here is ‘huachicol’ – sale of stolen fuel, another unfulfilled promise by López Obrador, since he promised to eradicate it from the beginning of his term – there is drug trafficking, there are drug sales. And, of course, there is also prostitution and sale of women and girls. A few months ago, we learned that in Huatulco (a city and well-known tourist destination in the area) a supposed maquiladora began to recruit women to work in it. But we all know that this industry does not exist in this area ”.
The number of missing women and girls has skyrocketed. From March of last year to March of 2021, 400 women have disappeared in Oaxaca (according to the cases registered in the Platform for Feminicidal Violence). 56% of them (225 cases) are between 1 and 17 years old; 21.5% (86 cases) are young people between 18 and 29 years old; 13.5% (54 cases) are women over 30 years of age; Of the 35 remaining cases, this information is not even available.
More than half of femicides occur in public spaces. The murderers no longer bother to hide their brutality: lifeless women continue to appear daily; sometimes just pieces of them. Many have stab wounds, marks of torture or rape. Others (many) have not even been identified, they have only appeared on unpopulated roads, floating in distant rivers, or hidden among the land of foreign soils.
“An endless horror story”
“An endless story of terror.” This is how the prestigious lawyer Patricia Olamendi describes the situation of many women in her country. Denial. That is the most worrying thing for her about the position of the current government regarding the uncontrollable violence against women. for her the lopezobradorista project has a very pending account with society.
When El Confidencial spoke with Olamendi, Félix Salgado Macedonio still had his candidacy. In this regard, she said the following: “ As a woman I feel very indignant about the future of Mexico. Guerrero is a state with a very high level of sexual violence against girls and boys. Acapulco (the main tourist destination in that state) is known for that. It is known that there is sexual exploitation, sale of boys and girls and child marriage. And, of course, it is human trafficking ”. His outrage, he said, was moreover the fact that Morena endorsed the candidacy of an alleged rapist.
“We have a problem that exceeds the limits of what is imaginable in other countries,” he confesses. “The position of this Government has always been one of confrontation.” For the lawyer, the picture is simply very gray, because she says that the case of Macedonio is not the only aggressor in the high political spheres. “Perhaps yours is the most serious, due to the importance of the position it seeks, but it is definitely not the only one,” he says.
The interview continued, and Olamendi put on the table the cases of Inés Fernández Ortega and that of Valentina Rosendo Cantú, two indigenous women (from Guerrero) who were raped by members of the Mexican army, and whose complaints resulted in a judgment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights against the Mexican State.
The horror story it tells, she adds, is not only for women but for all “decent men” and the society that the government has turned its back on. Is the situation unsustainable anymore? Their answer is figures: 3,753 women murdered during 2020 (taking into account the pandemic and the confinements); 67,000 women treated for fractures, blows, and burns; 220,000 complaints from women for acts of violence; and finally, the 4,267 girls and women who have disappeared in the two and a half years that go from the political project that López Obrador calls “the fourth transformation.”
Those are the official figures. The real ones will be much bigger. “Of course,” Olamendi replied.
Is lost to amazement
On the other side of the screen (and the Atlantic) is Arussi Unda. His profile, in the list of the 100 most influential people of 2020, according to Time magazine, was written by his journalist and compatriot, Lydia Cacho. That same distinction was awarded to him by the BBC. However, with El Confidencial she is relaxed, open, and comfortable. He smokes, says tacos, and makes a joke. She moves away from political correctness, even questioning some positions of the feminist movement, but if she defends something, it is that there are not only ten women who appear dead every day.
This Mexican marketer and activist is the spokesperson for the popular collective ‘Brujas del mar’, and one of the main promoters of the ‘mega march of March 8, 2020 (the first major feminist demonstration in that country). The conversation begins with this newspaper and it is the topic of Salgado Macedonio that opens. For her, he represents “everything that is wrong in this country. ” He considers corruption, violence, impunity, and, of course, machismo and the fact that a woman’s life in Mexico is worthless. And, like Ángeles Mastretta, he wonders “why so much insistence (on the part of Morena and López Obrador) that he had been the candidate?”
Are you protected from the Government? “Totally. We have seen not only the president of the nation, but the president of Morena accompanying him in all his tantrums, in his rallies, in his demonstrations. Anyone with two fingers of a forehead can verify that they are protected ”, he replies. And he also says that when Macedonio’s candidacy was shaking, there were people within his party who demonstrated to occupy that position, but who “from above” told them “No. It’s going to be him ” . And that, in his opinion, is something that has damaged Morena to the foundations (a party for which she has never voted).
Let’s talk about the ‘invisible figures’. It is not just 10 women murdered per day. “No, there are many more. We no longer know how many there are. We live in a country where there are countless clandestine graves. Here, in Veracruz, is where the largest grave with unidentified bodies in Latin America is. And what if the body is not identified? Well, without a body there is no crime ”, says Arussi Unda.
Bureaucracy at the service of impunity. For her, from all levels of the administration great efforts are made so that femicide is not classified as such: ‘ suicide ‘, ‘intentional homicide’, are some classifications they receive. And he tells of a recent case in which a man beat his stepdaughter to death after raping her. The offense was classified as ‘injuries’.
Then he takes out the case of María, Danna and Obdulia (mother, daughter and grandmother, respectively). Three imprisoned women serving a sentence for the death of Pedro, Maria’s husband and abuser. He died (it is not clear how) in a struggle with Maria and Danna. The daughter tried to help her mother after the brutal beating she received from Pedro, another one of many. It turns out that when Obdulia arrived, so did the police and the three women were arrested. However, Maria had already called 911 (emergency number) several times, but her requests for help were never answered. The same goes to the police for help, but they never showed up (there are records of those calls). Pedro already had several complaints of family violence, but today he is dead and they are in prison(with death threats from his family). Then Arussi wonders: “What would have to have happened for this case to attract attention? That Pedro had killed Maria first in one of the many beatings he gave her? If it had been like that, Danna and Obdulia would today be on an eternal pilgrimage like thousands of women who ask for justice for their victims? ”. And ditch: ” in this system, as a woman, you are abandoned .”
But for Arussi – despite being very critical of the current government, having already been harassed and attacked by the ‘Red AMLO’ – an army of digital ‘soldiers’ who block and attack those who disqualify the ‘fourth transformation’ – López Obrador and Morena are not the big problems. “If this guy (AMLO) dies tomorrow, machismo and femicides will continue. He, of course, is responsible for the situation, but he is not the source of the problem. The anger is not against him, but against the misogynistic system that allows women to be second-class citizens, that we do not have access to the most basic rights or justice, that we have to break our mother (fight, in Mexican slang) to have the same recognition as a man ”, ditch.
And it is that for her feminism is not a fashion or a minor issue. For her, it is a taking of political action, a definite position. “Being outraged because a girl has been raped and then murdered is not being a feminist. Being outraged by this is the least a normal person can do, a healthy person. Being a feminist is something else, it is having a political stance ”, she launches.
Returning to ‘the invisible figure’, he lets out: “violence has taken away many things from us, but the worst thing is that it has taken away our capacity for wonder.” And it is that today in Mexico if a story is not worthy of a horror film it does not have political or media impact. In short, if the murder of a woman is not in abominable conditions, it will not appear in the newspapers. “What else has to happen to us?” Silence appears.
After a few moments, that question without an apparent answer gives him the memory of an uncomfortable moment: when he learned that on March 8, 2020 (the one of the ‘mega-march’), a woman had appeared dead in her own municipality. “That day, in an interview, they asked me about the importance of all this, and I replied …” If you ask me right now, I’ll tell you nothing. Total, tomorrow will be day 9, one like any other, and another woman will appear dead ”. She confesses that perhaps she was wrong in giving that answer, but what she does not regret is the outrage and pain that led her to say that. Above all, because on March 8 of this year the same thing happened: another girl was found dead not far from her home.
“Without women there is no democracy”
It is 9 in the morning in Mexico and Yndira Sandoval receives the call from El Confidencial for this piece. He had only slept a few hours. He was working “with a very tough case” until after four in the morning. The case to which this lawyer and feminist activist refer, considered one of the 20 most influential women in the Mexican capital, is that of a 15-year-old boy who was drugged and sexually assaulted by a federal deputy. She was advising the family, while the official, after a couple of hours in detention, was already free.
Yndira is the promoter of a legal proposal called ‘3 of 3 vs. violence ‘, which imposes three requirements on men who aspire to a public office: not be delinquent with respect to any alimony; not be a stalker, nor be accused of gender-based assaults. She, like the rest of the voices in this text, raises her voice due to the indignation to know that in Mexico sexual offenders enjoy protection, especially when they are part of the Government. And it is that Sandoval knows very well about that, because she herself is a “survivor of sexual torture“, as she defines it, due to an episode in which “elements of the State” attacked her in 2017.
Power for power. Also with her comes the issue of Salgado Macedonio and makes it very clear that the government’s message is: “tax evaders no, rapists yes. ” “The meta-message is that you have your accounts and financial reports in order, but it does not matter if you are a rapist, batterer, pimp, pedophile, or stalker. You know why? Well, because women’s lives don’t matter to them. Politicians only care about power for power’s sake, ”he blurts out.
He does not skimp on crudeness when he talks about the stagnant misogyny in the administration and the urgent need for the transformations that Mexican society seeks to be born from feminist groups. Why? Well, because she can’t stand the fact that the president has expressed his support for a sex offender who is seeking public office. ” That makes him an accomplice (to López Obrador), and does not represent more than the institutionality of misogyny,” he says.
Sandoval does not stop throwing darts at the government. “We are facing an institutional orphan that is based on a patriarchal pact”; “… All funds for the prevention of violence against women have been cut, where are the priorities of this Government? I don’t know, but certainly not in women ”; “… We are talking about the criminalization of protest, of the political polarization of society, a very basic reductionism of it has been reached from the official discourse, we are talking about a misogynistic government that has declared feminists as its public enemies ”.
Then he makes an analysis of the political and social deterioration that the ‘fourth transformation is taking place. Is it the prospect of a war? “Yes. Mexico has all the elements to consider a war scenario, but internally. Only that war is being written on the line of women ”.
It doesn’t stop there. Another criticism he makes is of López Obrador’s phraseology when he says “the poor first.” She says that lacks all congruence because the poorest in her country are women. Because they are the ‘nameless’ who appear in clandestine graves, the ‘without justice’, the ‘worthless’, those who are exploited, those who earn less than a man in a job. Asked if she expected something different from this Government (she has voted for López Obrador in the last three presidential elections: 2006, 2012, and 2018), she replies that “women have been in the democratization processes, but they have not seen us. Women are the proletarians, we are the proletariat. No social struggle, no matter how inclusive, if it does not put women’s human rights at the forefront, will never be a transformation. And when I say upfront, I don’t mean it as a complement or as pink bows on politicians’ lapels ”.
When this interview was about to end, Sandoval recalled that together with ‘Brujas del Mar’ they have developed an initiative, facing the local elections in June, called ‘Observatorio Ciudadana Todos MX’, in which they keep a counter of the cases of complaints sexual (among other crimes) committed by each political party. What is relevant? Morena heads the list of complaints for violations. It has a total of 24 complaints about assaults (counted until April 19, 2021). Nine of them are for sexual violence; eleven for family violence; two cases of debtors and also two cases for ‘gender violence in other areas. The next political party with the most cases is the PAN (right), with four cases of sexual violence and a total of seven assaults.