Feminist Activist Shot Dead While Protesting Violence Against Women

Marisol Cuadras was killed in the Mexican state of Sonora on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Marisol Cuadras
Marisol Cuadras, who was shot dead last week, was a feminist activist in Sonora, Mexico. Photo: IG MarisolCuadra

MEXICO CITY — The gunmen arrived at city hall in the northern border state of Sonora with the police chief as their likely target. Instead, they killed an 18-year-old activist who was attending a rally to protest violence against women in Mexico, along with a security guard and one of the alleged assassins.

“Unfortunately, there was collateral damage,” Admiral Rafael Ojeda, secretary of the Navy, said during the president’ morning press conference last week. His reference to murdered activist Marisol Cuadras as a “muchachita,” or “little girl,” further inflamed indignation in feminist circles.


The attack Thursday evening in Guaymas, Sonora that killed Cuadras has caused an outcry in Mexico, where an overage of 10 women are murdered daily, according to Amnesty International. Cuadras, wearing black with a purple scarf, was participating in a peaceful demonstration on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, when she was shot and killed.

The brazen nature of the attack also underscores just how emboldened organized groups have become — sometimes taking siege of entire cities in an effort to seize control or kill a rival. Record levels of violence in Mexico have cast doubt on President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s embrace of the armed forces to address the country’s security problems.

Ojeda said the intended target of Thursday’s attack was Andrés Humberto Cano Ahuir, a Navy captain who became police chief in 2019. His appointment was part of a federal plan to stem violence in Sonora by bringing in the military to lead up local police forces, according to local news reports. 

Authorities have said a drug cartel was behind the attack and have since arrested 11 people. Turf wars between the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel are believed to have contributed to rising violence in the state.

Sonora’s state prosecutor said the felled gunman was a 49-year-old window cleaner who suffered addiction problems and had been recruited to carry out the shooting, and that the attackers used at least one hand grenade, which appeared to have hit a car.

Cuadras was a member of the feminist collective “Feminists of the Sea.” A student at the Center for Technological Studies in Guaymas, she described herself in her Twitter profile as a proud feminist and environmentalist. Cuadras and other members of the collective posed for a picture with the mayor moments before the attack at 6:40 p.m. The police chief had also stepped outside to speak with the protestors. Neither the mayor nor the police chief were harmed.

Cuadras’s mother, identified in news reports only as Teresa, wrote on Facebook that her daughter wanted to protest peacefully. “I raise my voice in your name, my love, for the right to freedom of expression without violence. I raise my voice for injustice. I raise my voice for everyone who has left us, may you rest in peace.” 

The governor of Sonora, Alfonso Durazo, said “federal, state and municipal” authorities are looking into the attack, and added: “We are going to get those who are responsible.”