The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal and State violence against women in Mexico

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The denunciations and sentence pronounced in Chihuahua, on September 21-23, should be broadcast far and wide. When a space opens, even one that is only symbolic and a question of conscience, where cases are heard such as those presented in the final hearing of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on “Femicide and gender violence”, it becomes a duty of conscience to make it known and express indignation.
Two days were hardly enough for women from the four corners of the Mexican territory to launch their complaints before the judges, who were deeply moved by the testimony. The judges – all women – read the final sentence at the Cruz de Clavos, a memorial to women who had been assassinated, in front of the Palacio de Gobierno in the northern city of Chihuahua, where there is a plaque on the pavement to indicate the place where, in December of 2010, the activist Marisela Escobedo was assassinated as she protested the murder of her daughter Rubi.
This Mexican state is the culminating point where the accusations of victims and the sentence of the judges come together: the insensitivity of its government officials, the patriarchal and sexist vision that permeates it, the laissez faire or full submission to economic, political or de facto powers, the impunity it protects, all make the State of Chihuahua an actor that favours and reproduces gender violence in all its forms: sexual, institutional, structural, femicide, workplace-based, or the criminalization of human rights defenders and journalists.
The mothers and families of those assassinated or forcibly disappeared in the violence of the dirty war against organized crime, are crying out for justice. In just one city, Cuauhtémoc, with hardly 150 thousand inhabitants, 350 persons have disappeared in recent years. One Señora Muñoz tells with tears how uniformed commandos carried off the eight adult men from her family while they celebrated fathers’ day in 2011. The cases are repeated: the State is the principal responsible agent, either because it was the military or police corps that disappeared or killed people, or because they provided a cover for the delinquents, or failed to investigate or to punish.
Femicide, which first came to light in Ciudad Juárez, then all across Mexico, is a heart-wrenching requiem narrated by the polyphony of women from various states of the Republic. The process that families follow is the same everywhere: they accuse, they become detectives, investigators, forensic experts, prosecutors, all of this in the face of inaction on the part of the authorities. The state criminal-justice apparatus is passive, if not in complicity with the organized crime involving the spouses or boyfriends who have become part of the gruesome trend of definitively getting rid of the woman who is a nuisance to them. There are extreme cases such as in Arroyo del Navajo near the frontier-city Ciudad Juárez, where the bones of 19 women were found, all brutally assassinated, some of them captured by the networks of prostitution, invisible to the authorities.
Against the women who stand up, who organize, who ask not so much for their own rights as for the rights of others, the State acts with unprecedented swiftness. The daughter of Nestora Salgado gives a lucid account of the story of her mother, arrested and hassled daily in the federal penitentiary of Nayarit. After fulfilling the work of defending the life and patrimony of the people, by directing the self-defence groups of Olinalá, in the southern State of Guerrero, she is accused and arrested by the same government that is impotent in face of the criminals.
The same cycle is apparent in all the accusations: 1: All kinds of aggression against women and their communities: femicide, forced disappearances, plunder of communities’ natural resources by mines and megaprojects, attacks by organized crime, family violence. 2: In the face of the absence, negligence or complicity of the authorities, efforts at organizing from below, especially on the part of women: defenders of human rights, community leaders, family members in search of disappeared men and women, journalists, defenders of housing under attack from mortgage holders, trade union members, pedlars.  3: And now the State, in complicity with the powerful, reacts against women who take part and struggle: they are detained, jailed, exiled like Cipriana Jurado and Marisela Reyes.   The State allows all kinds of harassment against defenders of human rights, threatens journalists, defames women’s organizations, serves arrest warrants against debtors on the part of the banks, dismisses independent union members, evicts pedlars. They repress and criminalize.
The State also employs legal reforms to assault women: in many states there is legislation against those who have abortions; new codes of procedures that make evictions easy; energy reforms that facilitate the takeover of land, water and natural resources of indigenous and campesino communities, without consideration of the fact that it is above all the women who care, who struggle to defend these communities.
Transition and democracy are blocked or perverted when gender or race are involved. In the barbarism against women the State works as the instrument of a transnational privileged class, and reveals their sexist and racist nature. Because of this, the most just sentence of this hearing of the Peoples’ Tribunal is that the Mexican State, as it now exists and acts, should be condemned to disappear and be re-established on principles of gender, race and class equity. Also, in the face of the systematic disregard on the part of the Mexican government agencies of putting into practice the recommendations of bodies such as the Inter American Court of Human Rights, mechanisms should be established that allow for a continuous and systematic regulation by women over political and economic power.
Women such as those who took part in these hearings of the PPT can do all this. As victims they have shown their great moral and personal stature. None of them have surrendered to their very real pain, all have become subjects of new processes, of demands for justice, for the rebuilding of their families, the reconstruction of their communities. They are women for whom the Apocalypse is past and present, the Genesis, as Leonardo Boff would point out.
(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)
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