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All Female Murders Must be Seen as Possible Femicides, Rules Mexico Supreme Court

The justices decided that all murders of women should be considered possible femicides, in a landmark ruling over the 2010 murder of 29-year-old Mariana Lima Buendia.
Imagen vía VICE News

Mariana Lima Buendía, a 29-year-old lawyer working in a public prosecutor's office in a suburb of Mexico City, told her mother she finally had enough of her husband's abuse. He beat her, raped her, threw her down a staircase, and repeatedly threatened to kill her.

On June 27, 2010, Lima headed home to break it off for good with Julio Cesar Hernández Ballinas, a judicial police officer working for the same agency in the state of Mexico.


She said she'd go alone, pack her bags, and return to her parents in Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl. But the following morning, her mother, Irinea Buendía, received a phone call from Hernandez. "Ma'am, Mariana hanged herself," were the first words he told her.

Irinea Buendía went to the their house in the scruffy suburb of Chimalhuacán immediately. Mariana hanged herself, Hernández told her mother and investigators, on a typical house utility hook and a pink cord only five millimeters thick.

It was physically impossible, but Mexico state investigators at the scene believed Hernandez anyway, despite the bruises visible on Mariana's body — or the scene that occurred outside as Irinea Buendía was leaving.

"You'll save yourself from the justice of men, but from the justice of God, you'll never be safe!" Buendía yelled at him, according to the book Las Muertas del Estado.

"I already know that!" Hernández yelled back.

Mariana Lima Buendía's case is emblematic of an epidemic of gender-related violence in Mexico state, the country's most populous and home to millions who live in the dense, gray suburbs that spill over from Mexico's Federal District.

In a landmark ruling, justices ordered the reopening of the investigation into her death, and ordered that it be re-investigated "from the perspective" of femicide, or the murder of a woman by a man for reasons related to her gender.

Related: Justice Is Scarce for Female Murder Victims in the State of Mexico.


Lima's father Lauro places fresh flowers at her tomb in Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl, Mexico state. (Image via VICE News)

The nightmare that started that day in 2010 has not ended for Mariana Lima's father Lauro and her mother Irinea. At least ten different judicial agencies have denied their constant, home-prepared claims that their daughter's death was a homicide.

In the meantime, Julio Cesar Hernández Ballinas has remained free. In fact, as noted by the book by Humberto Padgett and Eduardo Loza, he's been promoted inside Mexico state prosecutor agency, to unit chief in Chimalhuacán.

Mariana's parents were swarmed with cameras amid tears and hugs outside the Supreme Court chambers.

But on Wednesday, Mexico's Supreme Court gave a reprieve to the family's five-year-long pursuit of justice.

The court declared it is the "duty of investigative bodies to investigate every violent death of a woman, to determine whether or not this is a case of femicide."

Between 2012 and 2013, at least 535 women were murdered in Mexico state, according to the National Citizens Observatory on Femicide, or OCNF in Spanish.

That rate of violence against women is the highest in the country and is believed to be higher than the worst rate of femicide reported in Ciudad Juarez, the Mexican border city that became an international symbol for the unsolved murders of women.

Related: Word of Bodies in Canal Stirs Outrage Over Mexico's Mass Graves and Missing.

Mariana's parents in their home. (Image via VICE News)

VICE News was inside the chambers of the court as the justice discussed Irinea Buendía's claim that irregularities, official omissions, and obstructions of justice "have impeded that the truth of the events be known."


Justice Olga Sanchez Cordero, the only female on the five-justice panel, warned her peers that the vote should be considered monumental, for addressing the "culture of violence against women in our country."

Buendía's case took up less than five minutes of the agenda. The judges voted unanimously in her favor.

After the ruling, as news cameras and reporters swarmed the parents, Irinea Buendía said that she "has faith" that justice can be reached in her daughter's death.

"This is a decisive step, where the Supreme Court is acknowledging the failures that occurred in the previous investigations, the ones that I have denounced since the very beginning," she told VICE News amid tears and hugs.

María de la Luz Estrada, OCNF coordinator, said the ruling affects countless cases of unresolved femicides in the country.

"It's one more step forward to keep breaking the chains of impunity that are lived in Mexico," she said. "Because women in Mexico not only live discrimination, but have to suffer impunity, collusion with authorities, and much more."

"Once again we've been proven right," Estrada added. "We have more than 500 cases that have not yet been investigated since 2010. [Authorities] must guarantee access to justice for all women."

Related: Widow of Ayotzinapa Student Whose Face Was Mutilated Is Still Waiting for Justice.

Rafael Castillo and Andrea Noel contributed to this report. Follow Daniel Hernandez on Twitter @longdrivesouth.