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News > Latin America

Mexican Women's Struggle For Justice Include Peña Nieto

  • First Vice President of the Inter-American Comission consoles Yolanda Muñoz (l) y Suhelen Gabriela Cuevas (r), 2 of the 11 victims of sexual torture by Mexico's police.

    First Vice President of the Inter-American Comission consoles Yolanda Muñoz (l) y Suhelen Gabriela Cuevas (r), 2 of the 11 victims of sexual torture by Mexico's police. | Photo: EFE

Published 20 December 2017

11 women who were sexually tortured by federal and state police seek justice and reparations in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  

The Women of Atenco is the name given to the 31 Mexican women who suffered sexual torture at the hands of Federal and State Police after the brutal crackdown of informal workers in the town of San Salvador Atenco on May 3 and 4, 2006. 

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Informal vendors tried to resist relocation with the support of the Community Front in Defense of Land and adherents to The Other Campaign, the Zapatistas' political program. During the early morning of May 4, 2006, 1,815 State Security Agents and 700 Federal police arrived in Atenco. 

Among the 207 people arrested there were 10 children and 47 women. 

A total of 31 women denounced sexual torture days after their arrest in front of Judge Jaime Maldonado, who was assigned to their case, but their testimonies were dismissed. Finding no justice in their country 11 of them decided to take their case to Inter-American Court of Human Right.  

On Oct. 2015 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reported "the existence of grave acts of physical and psychological violence, including different forms of sexual violence," and on Nov. 16 and 17 of this year, the Atenco women had their first hearing at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights where they have their testimonies.

One of the victims, Aidé Jiménez Osorio, described her experience for the tribunal: "They rip my pants, they bite by arms, they lift my sweater so that it only covers my eyes, they bite my lips, they penetrate me with their fingers; they took turns to do it." Similar accounts were provided by four more women. Angélica Patricia said "Then a policeman grabbed me from where the belt goes, put me against the wall and stuck his hand in my vagina". The trauma has prevented them from continuing with their pre-abuse lives.  

The women demanded a full investigation, which includes not only the men immediately responsible for their torture but also the chain of command in place the day of the crackdown and subsequent arrests. This chain of command includes Mexico's current President Enrique Peña Nieto who was the governor of the state where Atenco is located.

Araceli Olivos Portugal a lawyer with the Agustin Pro Juarez Center for Human Rights, who represents the 11 women who suffered abuse, said that in a 2009 Supreme Court investigation Peña Nieto accepted ordering the police crackdown and learning about the police abuse. 

The abuse was no secret. Aside from the women's testimony in court and media coverage of their accusation on May 22, 2006 Mexico's National Human Rights Commission confirmed 23 cases of sexual aggression. It is unlikely that Mexico state governor would have been unaware of the accusations.  

As part of reparations sought by the Atenco women, they demanded the construction of a Documentation and Accompaniment Center for victims of sexual torture and a Memory Center.


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