Witness Reports



Margarita Martinez, a human rights defender from the southern state of Chiapas, told her story in Spanish to a room full of international activists and journalists that included a representative from WMC’s Women Under Siege in Mexico City in January. Crying as she spoke, Martinez described her rape and persecution by the police and her subsequent quest for justice:

My home was searched by 18 to 20 armed police, who beat us, tortured us, and separated our children from me and my husband because of the work we do. Afterward, we went to the prosecutor’s office to ask what the charges against us were. He didn’t provide any information because of the search—there was excessive police force during the search. It wasn’t a search, but sheer intimidation. We submitted a complaint to the specialized office for torture and were then intimidated with telephone threats. We were told to drop the case or our children will pay the price.
We had to move to San Cristóbal [de las Casas] with the children. Attacks ranged from psychological aggression to physical aggression. I was arrested, tortured, and raped in jail. My case was brought to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. My crime: to work as a health promoter with indigenous people. It is actually the government’s responsibility to do that. On March 5, the government was ordered to implement preventative measures and investigate. ... It’s been two years and we still don’t have a response; even the prosecutor’s office does nothing. … The state has denied us our right to justice. Human rights defenders are the victims today. The government of Chiapas has refused to investigate because the perpetrators are high officials.
I have no work. My children are isolated. We are stigmatized because we are always followed by police. The state is responsible if anything happens to me on the way back to Chiapas. I’m sorry for my tears.

In their book, Terrorizing Women: Feminicide in the Américas, UC Santa Cruz’s Fregoso and New Mexico State University’s Cynthia Bejarano provide the testimony of Eva Arce, mother of Silvia Arce, who disappeared in March of 1998. (The authors do not say where she was living when she vanished.) Arce speaks about the threats and intimidation she faced from government security forces and officials while seeking justice for her daughter:

In 2003, they beat me and surrounded my house. They have followed me and called me on the phone to threaten me. They’ve tried to pick me up, too. Once they left me a message to go to the Hotel Lucerna to identify the body of my daughter, Silvia, but I didn’t go. They wanted to put one over on me, and I thought: I’m not going; they’ll disappear me, just like they did my daughter, Silvia. I went to ask for help with the investigations to a news reporter from the United States who ended up making fun of me.

The mother of Yahaira Guadalupe, who was taken from her home in Tlacolula de Matamoros, Oaxaca, by an armed group on April 13, 2011, tells the Caravan for Peace what she knows about her daughter’s abduction. Catholic poet Javier Sicilia leads the caravan, a group traveling from Mexico north through the United States as part of his Mexican Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, which Sicilia created after his son was killed in crossfire in Cuernavaca in March 2011.

I heard the statements of some of the criminals involved in my daughter’s disappearance. They gave all the details about how they had forced my daughter out of her house with the support of civilian and military authorities, and how they tortured, raped and decapitated her, even when they knew she was only an innocent young 19-year-old girl. For them, her only crime was that she was from the state of Michoacan.