Activist Mother Gunned Down

A Ciudad Juarez woman who struggled for more than two years to obtain justice for her murdered daughter is now a murder victim herself. Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, mother of 16-year-old Rubi Marisol Frayre Escobedo, was gunned down December 16 by an assassin in front of the state capital building in Chihuahua City as she protested her daughter’s case.

The murder was captured on videotape and broadcast by the Televisa network on national Mexican television the morning of December 17. Positioned from above, a camera shows a gunman pursuing Escobedo across a busy street, shooting her in the head and then fleeing in a waiting white car. The killer and his accomplice(s) had not been apprehended by the time Frontera NorteSur went to press.

The slaying occurred Thursday evening, December 16, in front of numerous onlookers. Some witnesses reported a brief exchange of words between Escobedo and a group of men before the woman was killed. The fatal shooting happened in the heart of the state government complex in Chihuahua City, a presumed high-security zone considering the violence that has unraveled Chihuahua for nearly three years.

At the time of her murder, Escobedo was conducting a “permanent” protest outside the state capital to press for the arrest of her daughter’s common-law husband, Sergio Rafael Barraza Bocanegra, who initially confessed to killing Rubi in Ciudad Juarez in August 2008.

The young mother had been missing for months before Barraza led authorities to Rubi’s burned body. At one point, relatives of Barraza accused Rubi’s family of killing a younger brother of the suspect out of revenge.

Despite his confession, Barraza was acquitted earlier this year for lack of evidence by a panel of judges including Catalina Ochoa Contreras and Nezahualcoyotl Zuniga. The verdict set off pandemonium in the courtroom, with Rubi’s relatives screaming in disbelief.

An appeals court subsequently found Barraza guilty of murder and sentenced the young man to 50 years in prison. However, the suspect had long fled Ciudad Juarez. Marisol Escobedo reportedly tracked Barraza to the Mexican state of Zacatecas, but the fugitive was able to elude the law. According to some news accounts, Barraza might have hooked-up with the Zetas gang.

Since 2009, Escobedo’s struggle attracted ample media attention. A retired nurse, “Rubi’s Mom,” as she become known to the public, mounted numerous protests with supporters and even traveled to Mexico City in an unsuccessful attempt to meet with President Calderon and Attorney General Arturo Chavez.

Last week, Escobedo disrupted a speech by new Chihuahua Governor Cesar Duarte at the Autonomous University of Chihuahua.

In comments to the Mexican media after Escobedo’s murder, Governor Duarte said the killing was in retaliation for the determined mother’s efforts to bring Sergio Rafael Barraza to justice. Duarte pledged he would ask the Chihuahua State Legislature to dismiss the three judges who freed Barraza, and vowed to investigate state policemen charged with protecting Escobedo, who had been threatened.

Escobedo’s brazen slaying evoked mass outrage in cyberspace and on the streets in Mexico and abroad.

“Once again, the negligence of federal and state authorities in preventing and sanctioning violence against women in the state of Chihuahua has caused relatives and human rights organizations to suffer reprisals for struggling for truth and justice,” said Amnesty International in a statement.

The murder of Marisela Escobedo was the latest killing of activists in the state of Chihuahua in 2010. Last January, army and drug war critic Josefina Reyes was shot to death in the Juarez Valley. Later, in August, Reyes’ 49-year-old brother Ruben Reyes was similarly slain in the same zone.

In March Ernesto Rabago Martinez, an attorney for indigenous Raramuris struggling to legally recover ancestral lands, was murdered in Chihuahua City. Rabago’s daughter and wife were also subjected to attacks and threats. Other prominent human rights activists have been forced to flee the state amid escalating threats this year.

In Chihuahua City, Justice for our Daughters, the Women’s Human Rights Center and other groups rapidly mobilized against the murder of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, while another protest action was reportedly in the works in Mexico City. The video of Escobedo’s killing has been posted on YouTube.

Sources: Proceso/Apro, December 17, 2010. El Diario de Juarez, December 17, 2010. Televisa, December 17, 2010., December 16 and 17, 2010. El Universal, July 30, 2010; August 18, 2010; December 16 and 17, 2010. Articles by Jorge Ramos and editorial staff. La Jornada, December 10 and 17, 2010. Articles by Victor Quintana and Miroslava Breach., December 8, 16 and 17, 2010.

Editor’s Note:

Across the Americas, 16 days of activism kicked off by the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women comes to a close this week. This year’s November 25 celebration was an especially landmark one, as it marked the 50th anniversary of the brutal assassination of the three Mirabal sisters in the Dominican Republic by dictator Rafael Trujillo. Every year on November 25, the deaths of Minerva, Patria and Maria Teresa are remembered in the countless struggles of women in the hemisphere in beyond. As the November 25 events end, many activists are gearing up for Friday, December 10, International Human Rights Day,


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