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

A report in 2013 found that 6.4 women were murdered every day in Mexico and that femicides increased 40 percent between 2006-2012.

by Andalusia Knoll
Apr 30 2014, 8:50pm

Photo by Andalusia Knoll

In 2004, 24-year-old Nadia Alejandra Muciño was found dead in her home with a rope and an electrical cord tied around her throat.

Even though all signs pointed to murder via strangulation, and there had been a documented record of incidents of domestic violence, authorities declared Mucino's death a suicide.

Muciño wasn't assassinated in Ciudad Juárez — the Mexican border metropolis in the Northern state of Chihuahua — which has become internationally known for these kinds of gruesome murders that largely target young women.

No, Muciño was murdered in the state of Mexico — on the outskirts of the capital city, where femicides or the killing of women, topped the nation's murder statistics.

Between 2005 and 2011, during President Peña Nieto's term as governor of the state of Mexico, 1,997 women were murdered in his state, according to official government statistics.

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A report issued by the Initiative of Female Nobel Peace Prize winners in 2013 found that 6.4 women were murdered every day in Mexico and that femicides increased 40 percent between 2006-2012 during Felipe Calderon's failed "war on drugs."

In the book, The Assassinated Women of the State: Femicide During Enrique Peña Nieto's Administration, author Humberto Padgett attempted to find out why one Mexican state that makes up only 13.5 percent of the national population accounts for 25 percent of the femicides.

Padgett spoke with victims' family members to shed light on the numerous ways they have been denied justice.

"Their assassination marks only one of the grave moments in the life and death of these women. Prior to their deaths they suffered economic, physical and psychological violence, and following their deaths, their families then suffer institutional violence and constant corruption," Padgett said in an interview with VICE News. "Police demand money from the family so that they can carry out a proper investigation and regardless of whether they receive the money they still don't investigate the crime."

The Search For Justice
For the past decade, Muciño's mother, Antonia Márquez, has fought for her daughter's murderers to be held accountable — even though she said she has continually received physical and verbal threats from various members of the accused murderers' family. She even had to move to a different neighborhood to avoid these attacks.

"It is completely stupid. We have struggled for more than nine years against a corrupt system, a system that is completely rotten," Márquez told VICE News when asked how her daughter's murder could be considered a suicide.

Muciño's three young children were present during her murder and they have repeatedly testified that their father Bernardo López Gutiérrez and uncle Isidro López Gutiérrez allegedly killed their mother, but their testimony has not been sufficient for the prosecutors in the case. Authorities didn't arrest either man until a year after Muciño's death.

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In 2012, Bernardo López Gutiérrez was arrested in connection with the case but he still has yet to be convicted. Isidro Lopez Gutierrez was incarcerated between 2009 and 2010 but was eventually released after he appealed his conviction.

"When these men see that others have abused, raped and assassinated women and nothing has happened to them or at the most they serve one or two years in jail, there is nothing to prevent them from doing the same, because they know they will not suffer the consequences," Padgett said.

With the support of lawyers and civil organizations, Marquez filed a complaint with the Inter–American Commission of Human Rights to object to Isidro's release.

She believes that the brothers are able to escape punishment because of their blood relations to various politicians who belong to the PRI — the state's governing party, and the political party of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

In 2009, Peña-Nieto signed the Law of Access for Women to a Life Free of Violence into law.

He promised that the state would work "with a gender-specific approach, to guarantee women's right to access a life free of violence, by implementing actions and integral measures for the prevention, attention, sanction and eradication of all violence, and by transforming the political, social, economic, and cultural conditions that drive and reproduce gender violence."

Karla Micheel Salas, a lawyer who has represented various femicide cases in the state of Mexico, said that the government never complied with this law and instead replicated all the errors committed by the government of Chihuahua.

"They make the pain invisible, the statistics, the impunity — they don't actually try to eradicate the violence and resolve the problem in a more profound way," Salas told VICE News.

"These crimes are barely investigated and the crime scenes are not even preserved. These women don't matter to the authorities. It is even worse if the family is poor. If you are a women and you are poor your life is of even less relevance," Salas said.

Salas was one of the lawyers for the emblematic "Cotton Field Case" in which she sought justice for the brutal murder of three young women in Ciudad Juarez before the Inter–American Court of Human Rights (IACHR).

The IACHR ruled that the Mexican government was responsible for these murders and recommended that the state "improve the overall institutional capacity to combat the pattern of impunity in the cases of violence against women in Ciudad Juárez, by conducting effective criminal investigations, followed by constant judicial control, in order to ensure adequate punishment and redress."

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VICE News requested an interview with a government representative from the state of Mexico but no one was immediately available for a comment.

In accordance with the Law of Access for Women to a Life Free of Violence, the state has the power to issue a Gender Alert recognizing the grave situation. The alert would oblige the state to "take a series of emergency government actions to confront and eradicate the femicide violence within a determined territory."

Even though murders of women skyrocketed during his term, Peña Nieto never issued an alert. Many believe he failed to do so for the sake of preserving his image. Padgett wrote in his book that Peña Nieto's government reportedly manipulated the statistics to avoid issuing this alert.

As for Márquez, she said she has little faith in the state's ability to remedy the crisis.

"Here machismo, corruption and cover-ups are what reign. For two pesos or cronyism or friendship, they'll charge someone with a crime or delete their charge," said Márquez. "What year it is? How is that people still think that women are objects — property of men?"

Padgett, hopes that his book will inspire people to mobilize and organize to fight for justice for the thousands of women and young girls who have been murdered.

"I have many women in my life who live in the state of Mexico and whom I care about alot. I want them to keep living," he said.

Follow Andalusia Knoll on Twitter: @andalalucha