Women victims of abuse in Atenco narrate police atrocities

Edith Rosales Gutiérrez and Norma Jiménez Osorio. This photo by José Antonio López appeared on the front page of La Jornada.

By: Emir Olivares Alonso

The women that denounced the Mexican State before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Coridh) for the sexual torture of which they were victims during the police operation in San Salvador Atenco [1] the early morning of May 4, 2006 testified at that international body in search of the justice that they have not obtained in 11 years.

In the context of the 120-day ordinary period of this Court’s sessions, five of the 11 complainants narrated “the horror and the atrocities” of the police actions against them. Their testimony was not simple. At times they were silent, on the verge of tears because of the difficulty of recalling those acts.

They were beaten, subjected, humiliated and insulted. The sexual assaults included touching and the introduction of fingers into the vagina, and in one case in the anus. Medical legal experts and agents of the Public Ministry (District Attorney) also mistreated them, did not give them support and were even mocking them and rejecting their complaints; and state authorities questioned what they said.

The Court’s judges showed that they were sensitive to the stories, and didn’t limit themselves to asking exclusively about the denunciation for sexual torture, but rather went deeper into the context, into how the operation took place and the judicial processes against the complainants, about the struggle against Mexico’s new international airport, and they even wanted to know the name of the then governor of the state of Mexico. (It was none other than the current president of Mexico: Enrique Peña Nieto.)

Representatives of the Mexican government, principally, limited themselves to questioning the witnesses if they were familiar with the terms of the State’s proposals for a amicable solution, if they knew that 52 public servants had been consigned or if they were aware that one day before the acts a confrontation between residents and police had taken place. That motivated the judges to call the attention of the officials, because they considered that these kinds of questions did not deepen the objectives of the hearing.

“Come and warm this bitch up,” said various police agents upon submitting Bárbara Italia Méndez, she remembered. They abused her; they squeezed her breasts, bit and sucked various parts of her body and put their fingers in her vagina. “It was horror.” In her search for justice, she agreed to participate in an exam by experts one year later with the women’s prosecutor’s office of the Attorney General of the Republic (PGR, its initials in Spanish). She was re-victimized: while she was naked in a small room, she heard noise outside from several police agents that were making sexist jokes; additionally, the two women that applied the exams took photographs of her with their cell phones.

Several police agents assaulted Norma Jiménez in the backseat of a bus. She told the judges that when she asked for a legal medical expert to search her body because she had been raped, he answered that they had the injuries were surely self-inflicted. Her father does not speak to her. “He thinks that I am wrong for denouncing this here.” In response, Judge Elizabeth Odio told her: “Women are not wrong when we denounce.” Claudia Hernández remembered that the police took off her clothes and when they realized that she was on her menstrual period, they shouted: “We’re going to make this bitch dirtier.” And her torment started. On several occasions she thought about taking her own life.

Angélica Patricia Torres experienced the same torment. She demanded that the State clarify publically that they didn’t lie. “At that time I saw a message on television, in which the governor said that we were lying…” when she was telling this, a judge asked her for the name of the then governor. “Enrique Peña Nieto,” she answered. “Thank you,” the judge replied.

In a joint communiqué, the secretaries of Governance and of Foreign Relations, as well as the Attorney General of the Republic condemned: “the acts of sexual violence and torture against the 11 victims” and stated their “willingness and commitment to attend adequately to reparation measures that the Inter-American Court can order.”

[1] Many supporters/observers of the Zapatistas believe that the police terrorism of May 3 and 4 in San Salvador Atenco was directed at halting the EZLN’s Other Campaign, when delegates from the EZLN toured Mexico denouncing the political class during a presidential campaign. The Zapatista delegates were in Atenco for a big rally just a few days before the police riot. It did halt the Other Campaign for several months and it did curb the Other Campaign’s momentum. The government was also getting revenge on the community for its resistance to construction of a new international airport on part of its land.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, November 17, 2017


Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



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