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Residents in Mexico City are outraged over the murder of a 7-year-old girl, further fueling anger over an epidemic of brutal murders of women in the country, including that of a young woman who was stabbed to death and skinned by her partner just days before.
The 7-year-old, a grade-school student named Fatima, was found wrapped in a garbage bag after being abducted by a stranger outside her school on the outskirts of Mexico City on February 11. Her body was found on Saturday and was identified by genetic testing.
The cause of death has not been released.
The child’s abduction was caught on video. In the video, a woman is spotted walking away from the school with the girl.
Ernestina Godoy, a Mexico City prosecutor, has vowed that the murder will not go unpunished. Prosecutors have offered a US$107,000 reward for information on the woman. Five people have been questioned in the investigation.
Fatima’s family accused the police and government of failing to protect her. According to the child’s mother, Maria Magdalena Antón, investigators made her and her family wait hours before being allowed to file a missing persons report. Speaking outside the prosecutor’s office, she said, “Justice has to be done, for my daughter and for all women.”
Sonia Lopez, the girl’s aunt, said, “She could have been found alive, but nobody paid attention to us.”
The prosecutor’s office said an Amber alert had been issued for the girl the same day her family reported her missing.
On Monday, the mayor of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, accompanied Fatima’s mother while the latter completed the paperwork necessary to file charges and pick up the body.
“We are going to accompany the family, and justice must be done,” Sheinbaum said.
Ingrid Escamilla murder
Fatima’s abduction and murder came just two days after Ingrid Escamilla, a resident of Mexico City, was allegedly murdered by her domestic partner.
The man, who was arrested at the scene covered in blood, purportedly confessed to killing Escamilla with a knife and then mutilating and skinning her in an attempt to dispose of the evidence.
Escamilla’s murder sparked outrage and protests after local media leaked a photograph of her mutilated body.
Demonstrators gathered outside Mexico’s National Palace on Friday to protest against femicide, the gender-based killing of women, with the words “femicide state” being spray-painted onto its doors and walls.
Demonstrators also marched to the offices of La Prensa, a newspaper that published the image of Escamilla’s body, where a newspaper delivery truck was set alight.
The Mexican newspaper Pásala had published the photo on their front cover with a Valentine’s Day-themed headline that read, “It was Cupid’s fault.”
Femicide in Mexico
Gender-based violence against women in Mexico has been prevalent for decades, with a dramatic increase in the 1990s that drew international attention.
The city of Ciudad Juárez has been particularly plagued by cases of femicide. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that went into effect in 1994 led to an influx of manufacturing plants. Many of these plants had women working in them who were killed on their way to or from their jobs.
According to Angelita Baeyens, the director of advocacy and litigation at the American nonprofit Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, femicide in Mexico has increased in recent years.
There were 411 murders of women in 2015. The number increased to 601 in 2016, 742 in 2017 and 880 in 2018. Between January and July 2019, there were 540 femicide cases, Baeyens said.
In 2017, Baeyens traveled to Ciudad Juárez and met with mothers and government officials in charge of investigating cases. She and the mothers were told by a prosecutor’s office that there were around 7,000 current cases of sexual violence to deal with and only about 10 rotating investigators handling those cases.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has found the killings to be a difficult issue to deal with and has claimed that protests are an attempt to distract attention from his social programs.
“This issue has been manipulated a lot in the media,” he said. “I don’t want the issue just to be women’s killings.”
He later insisted, “we are working so that there won’t be any more women’s killings.”