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Mexico: activists voice anger at Amlo’s failure to tackle ‘femicide emergency’

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Posted on : March 6, 2020

Many hoped Mexicos leftwing president would take decisive action to slow a wave of killing. Instead, they say, things are getting worse

Each day, Mara Salgueros inbox floods with alerts telling the interminable tale of Mexicos femicide crisis: womans corpse, woman dismembered, woman stoned, woman stabbed.

For the past four years the Mexico City activist has made a daily mission of documenting the death toll, and pinpointing each of the crimes and victims on an online map.

Maria Salguero works at her computer in Mexico City Photograph: Emilio Espejel/The Guardian

When Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador was elected in 2018, Salguero hoped Mexicos supposedly progressive new president would take decisive action to slow a wave of killing that last year claimed the lives of 3,825 women.

Instead, Salgueros research tells her things are getting worse: 10 or 11 women are now being killed each day, compared to six when she launched her map in 2016.

A map of crimes against women on Maria Salgueros computer Photograph: Emilio Espejel/The Guardian

And like many Mexican feminists she voices frustration at the politician popularly known as Amlo.

I feel betrayed, because I was one of those who voted for him, said Salguero, 40. We trusted that things could be different but now we are seeing that this is just more of the same.

Salguero is not alone.

After a politically explosive start to 2020, in which two horrific femicides sparked street protests and catapulted gender violence to the top of Mexicos political agenda, many former Amlo supporters are expressing disenchantment.

Masked feminists daubed their discontent on to the presidential palace last month with slogans such as Amlo is killing us and Lets abort Amlo.

We all believed that with him things would be different. I thought this too, said Frida Guerrera, a journalist and activist who recently confronted Mexicos president at his morning press conference.


Microphone in hand, Guerrera implored Amlo to do more to fight Mexicos femicide emergency.

Femicide exists. We should never, ever deny that, she said, demanding to know why Mexico lacked a special prosecutors office to deal with such crimes. Im sorry to raise my voice. [But] what is the presidents stance towards us women?

Guerrera who tells the stories of femicide victims on her blog – insisted she had not intended to pick a fight with Amlo.

Im not Andrs Manuels enemy, she said. I went because I dont want to write any more stories – and because I truly believe we must treat this as a national emergency and they do not want to accept this.

But Amlos reaction did nothing to reassure Guerrera, or other womens rights activists who believe the presidents response to the crisis has been haughty and evasive.

A women takes part in a demonstration against gender violence in Tijuana, Mexico, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. The demonstration comes after last weeks vicious murder of Ingrid Escamilla by her boyfriend and controversy unleashed by the leaking of images of her body to the press. Photograph: Emilio Espejel/AP

Amlo has enraged feminist activists by insinuating a nationwide womens strike on 9 March was part of a conservative plot against his governmentand announcing he would inaugurate a populist raffle for his presidential plane on the very same day. (On Wednesady he announced he would postpone the launch, saying he didnt even realize that the strike was planned for Monday.)

In another particularly notorious declaration, he attributed femicide to the neoliberal policies of previous administrations.

Political scientist Viridiana Ros said she thought criticism of Amlos linking of neoliberal policies with femicide was mistaken.

I think he is right. I personally [do] want to talk about the social problems that the economic model is creating because I believe that only if we do that are we going to find the right solutions, said Ros, who is part of a collective of young leftist thinkers called Democracia Deliberada.

But Ros believed Amlos handling of the crisis had been damaging and counterproductive and stemmed partly from a conviction that the feminist movement was a political threat.

Amlo has been implored to do more to stop the killing. Photograph: Henry Romero/Reuters

He is now really empowering the opposition, and more critically he is perceived as insensitive, Ros said. What could be worse for a leftwing politician than to be perceived as socially insensitive?

As the killing continues, activists such Salguero and Guerrera busy themselves fighting to give femicide victims a voice.

Each weekday, Salguero spends up to four hours up tapping details of the latest murders into her laptop. So far this year she has logged 320 deaths. Since launching her map in January 2016 there have been more than 9,000

At the weekend, Salguero tries to forget: going bike riding, posting photos of cats and dogs on Facebook or listening to Norwegian black metal to relax.

This is how I get rid of all the stress of all this violence. Otherwise I would go mad, she said.

At first Salguero recorded only basic details of each murder but increasingly she tries to add context the key, she thinks, to finding policy solutions that can stop the slaughter.

How was the woman killed? Why? Was she pregnant? Was she alone? Was she raped? Was she thrown from a vehicle or dumped on a wasteland? Was the victim found clothed or naked? What kind of gun was used? How many knife wounds did she suffer?

Sometimes you see victims who have been stabbed more than 100 times, Salguero said. Just imagine that level of viciousness. It just show you how much rage these men feel towards women.

This year, as the femicide crisis has turned into a major political row, she and Guerrera have been targeted on social media. Salguero said some of the most venomous attacks came after she published the tally of women killed since Amlo took office in December 2018: 3,835.

They went for my jugular, Salguero said.

But she shrugged off such attacks and vowed not to abandon her map.

If the president plays down the problem then what can you expect from the rest of society? I feel that if I dont do something then it could be my nieces next. It could happen to any one of the women around me.

Protesters gather in Ciudad Juarez demand justice for artist and activist Isabel Cabanillas, 26, who was murdered in the streets of Juarez. Photograph: Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images

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