After Colombia, Mexico is the most dangerous place for human rights activists in Latin America, more so if they are women, affirmed Alejandra Anchieta, director of the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Project.
According to Anchieta, the list of aggressions against female activists includes threats, stalking, surveillance, harassment, kidnappings, forced disappearances, torture, criminalization, arbitrary detentions, and even death. In the last three years, aggressions against female activists have risen 25%, and 11 of those were assassinated after denouncing public officials and businessmen, Anchieta added in statements for the press.
But the impunity that aggressors who attack human rights activists enjoy may come to an end with a detention order the Attorney General’s Office of the southern state of Oaxaca issued on Oct 1. The detention order is made against 12 alleged murderers of Bety Cariño and the Finnish observer Jyry Antero Jaakkola, killed in April 2010 in the indigenous community of San Juan Copala, Oaxaca, as they were participating in a caravan convened by social organizations that demanded peace in that community, which was controlled by paramilitaries.
Cariño, a Mixtec indigenous woman, was the director of the Working United Center for Community Support, a civil organization that works on popular education, indigenous rights and women’s rights projects in Oaxaca.
The lawyers of the victims’ families, David Peña and Karla Micheel Salas, of the National Democratic Lawyers Association, highlighted in a press conference that “we are facing a real possibility that the murderers of human rights activists will be sanctioned and criminally punished. Once the arrest warrants are completed and the murder cases against them are initiated, we can declare that impunity in Oaxaca is broken.”
Peña and Salas indicated that Cariño and Jaakkola were killed by members of the paramilitary group named Union of Social Wellness of the Triqui Region — linked to the Institutional Revolutionary Party that will return to power in December after winning the presidential elections this past July. The lawyers also mentioned that the paramilitary group “received money from [then] Governor Ulises Ruiz and other officials of the Oaxaca government.”
“For the first time steps will be taken against the impunity former Governor Ulises Ruiz stealthily executed and encouraged,” indicated Peña.
The arrest warrants were issued for “first degree murder” because the Attorney General’s Office, as part of its task to investigate, obtain testimonies, use expert evidence and the collaboration of the victims’ families and their lawyers, was able to establish that the responsible parties acted premeditatedly, treacherously, and with a greater advantage.
“This is not over yet,” said Omar Esparza, Cariño’s husband. “This is only another step in this long path that we have been following in these last two and a half years, but without a doubt this is a new hope in search for justice”.