Atenco Victims of Police Abuse Seek Truth and Justice, Again Reject Government Payment

Gloria Leticia Díaz

Proceso, 4th May, 2013

Nine years after the repression in San Salvador Atenco [State of Mexico,
near Mexico City], 11 women who are litigating the case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reported that Enrique Peña Nieto’s government is slowing the process and trying to mislead members of the Commission.

At a press conference, three of the victims and their representatives from the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Centre (PRODH Centre) announced that in the past few days, the State of Mexico government stated that it had established a trust to cover compensation for the 11 women who reported sexual assault to the IACHR.

Following this, Mario Patrón Sánchez, director of the PRODH Centre, and Stephanie Brewer, the lawyer of the case, indicated that the announcement from [Governor] Eruviel Ávila’s government intends to convince IACHR members of the State of Mexico’s supposed disposition to reach an amicable settlement with the victims.

Not only that, it also aims to avoid submitting an in-depth report that shows the operational chain of command in which Peña Nieto’s responsibility could rise to the surface. MV Note: Peña Nieto was governor at the time and has acknowledged he gave the order for the state police action.

Since 2008, when they lodged their complaint with the IACHR, Bárbara Italia Méndez, Edith Rosales Gutiérrez, and Norma Jiménez Osorio, three of the women who were assaulted in May 2006, have made public their decision to reject a negotiated solution. In March 2013, they reaffirmed their position before the Commission at a public hearing in Washington.

Brewer stated that despite the women’s position, representatives of the Mexican government continued to approach their lawyers, sent letters to the IACHR insisting on an amicable settlement, and “repeatedly asked not to submit the in-depth report because the State was going to solve the case internally.”

The lawyer emphasized that the state government announced the establishment of an “ad hoc compensation fund for the women reporting the case through the Institute for the Assistance of Victims in the State of Mexico, which we consider to be pressuring and harassment."

On page 21 of the State of Mexico Government Gazette, dated March 19, an edict was published to notify the 11 women and PRODH Centre of an "assistance fund created by the Government of the State of Mexico for the victims of the events that occurred on May 3 and 4, 2006, in San Salvador Atenco.”

The fund, whose amounts have not been disclosed, "is available (to the victims) at the offices of the Institute for Victims of Crime of the Attorney General of the State of Mexico" in Metepec. The edict is signed by its Director General, Marcela Mora Córdoba.


Edith Rosales considered the edict "offensive", not to mention, threatening to the women by making the public think they are going to receive funds.

"Their intention is to pay in order to end the process of struggle. We will not sell our dignity; they must provide real justice and define where the chain of command is. It must reach he who boasted [Peña Nieto] about having implemented the operation, because until now no one in the chain of command has been arrested or prosecuted,” she emphasized.

In March 2013, Bárbara Méndez was responsible for reading the letter signed by 11 women at the Washington hearing, which repeated to the Mexican State that "there will be no amicable or negotiated settlement.”

"It’s not about money; rather it is about dignity and justice. We will not stop moving forward until we get both. Already there are more than 11; in this fight, we have managed to strengthen our side with other women who were sexually assaulted by members of the military, police and navy,” she said.

Additionally, Norma Jiménez indicated that even though all the complainants could not attend the press conference, there is an agreement between the 11 to continue with the proceedings before the IACHR. They will continue “despite having received blows for nine years from the Mexican State, who have wanted us to give up.”

According to Stephanie Brewer, the intention behind publishing the edict was to "put pressure on the women, delay the process before the IACHR and confuse them. They expect to convince the IACHR that there is a dialogue and negotiation in order to block the in-depth report."

The lawyer stated that one of the women’s objectives is that in the in-depth report, guidelines for achieving "structural changes to end sexual assault" be included, and that the IACHR may decide to bring the case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, if the recommendations issued in its resolution are not met.

Noting that it is likely that the conclusions of the agency will be made public in either of the two sessions to be held this year (in July and October), Mario Patron indicated that in the report of the UN rapporteur on torture, Juan Méndez, he recognized that in Mexico, "the degree of impunity for sexual assault is even higher than that used to incriminate people in crimes."

Similarly, he noted that during the operation in May 2006, 47 women were arrested: 26 of them reported sexual assault, but only 11 decided to continue the fight for the punishment of those responsible.

According to the director of PRODH Centre, "the State of Mexico is not interested in justice, truth or reparations. It is only interested in dismissing a case in which the president and former governor is involved. This campaign to delay the proceedings revolves around the logic of trying to buy the victims’ silence.”

Translated by Amanda Coe



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