Target: President Felipe Calderón, Attorney General Marisela Morales, and Governor Enrique Peña Nieto
Goal: Prosecute the 34 state police responsible for beating and raping dozens of women in Atenco in May of 2006.
Over five years have passed since the lives of dozens of women in small village in Mexico State were forever changed. On the morning of May 3, 2006, local flower sellers made their way to work after recently having reached an agreement with local authorities for the town of Atenco. In spite of the negotiated arrangement, the sellers were intercepted by local and state police. When the workers began to protest the undue obstruction and intimidation, the police became further emboldened and responded by killing two people, including a young boy, and injuring many more.
News of the event spread to neighboring towns, and on the following morning of May 4th, dozens of people had arrived in Atenco to investigate the deaths and join in the protests. In response to these even larger protests and pressure from the people, local, state, and federal police carried out arbitrary house raids, detentions, and beatings. The police brutality spread beyond those involved in the protests to innocent bystanders.
Police detained dozens, including at least 45 women, many of whom were beaten and raped by those forces that had arrested them. One woman in particular recounts being taken into custody, having her hair pulled, and beaten, and forced into a police vehicle with her shirt over her head. While on the way to prison, she was made to lie on top of others who were detained, and was subsequently sexually assaulted repeatedly by the officers. When the detained women arrived at the prison, over 24 had said they were raped and sexually abused by the police, but prison medical personnel neglected to conduct proper examinations. Of those women, 11 submitted formal complaints to the National Human Rights Commission, which generated an investigation by the, then, Federal Attorney General. However, after further shaming and degrading the assaulted women by submitting them to psychological examinations, the Attorney General abandoned justice for the women of Atenco and conducted no further investigations.
Later, investigation into the incidents was conducted by the federal Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes of Violence Against Women and Human Trafficking (FEVIMTRA). The report issued by FEVIMTRA concluded that there was, indeed, psychological, physical, and sexual abuse perpetrated by 34 named state police officers against the women. Furthermore, while the report calls for the prosecution of the officers, the state and federal authorities responsible for prosecuting the officers have yet to begin the process. To date, one officer was convicted of “libidinous acts” according to Amnesty International; however, he paid a fine, sentenced to time served, and was later acquitted of charges on appeal.
Justice for the women of Atenco is long overdue, and although it is the responsibility of the state to accept jurisdiction and prosecute the officers, the federal government of Mexico also has the opportunity to enforce the law and protect the rights of these women. For five years, their attackers have gone unpunished, consequently skirting the laws they swore to defend. President Felipe Calderón, Attorney General Marisela Morales, and Governor Enrique Peña Nieto must prosecute the 34 police officers listed in the FEVIMTRA report to the fullest extent of the law as soon as possible. The time for procrastination, ambivalence, and shifting of responsibility has passed.
In May of 2006, protests erupted in Atenco, Mexico when local flower sellers, recently permitted to conduct their business, were confronted by state and local police without cause. Subsequently, in severely misguided attempts to quell the protesters, police conducted random house raids, beat innocent bystanders, and even killed a 14-year-old boy.
Witness accounts and reports from government agencies such as FEVIMTRA detail the horrifying stories of women who were rounded up, beaten, raped, and detained on that day. Yet, no one, save for one acquitted officer, has had to face prosecution. For more than five years, these women have had to not only grapple with the abuses and assaults they survived, but also, the neglect and apathy of their elected officials. The very idea that the people responsible for these heinous acts are the same individuals who swore to serve and protect the citizens in their charge makes this case all the more egregious.
It is time for the police listed in the FEVIMTRA investigation to face justice and be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The women of Atenco deserve no less.
[Your Name Will Go Here]