'War on women' in Mexico described as growing worse since escalation of drug war.
By Diana Washington Valdez
El Paso Times
Violence against women in Mexico grew worse during the country's war against the drug cartels, according to the preliminary findings of a recent fact-finding delegation led by two Nobel laureates.
The delegation from the Nobel Women's Initiative also found that the same trend of violence against women holds true for Honduras and Guate mala, where Mexico-based drug-trafficking organizations have extended their operations.
"The war on drugs and increased militarization in Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala is becoming a war on women," said Jody Williams, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work to ban land mines.
"The government's efforts to improve 'security' in the region have directly resulted in insecurity for civilian populations, and most especially, for women," she said.
The Canada-based Nobel Women's Initiative has followed the evolution of violence against women in Juárez.
Mexican government statistics show that the homicides of women in Juárez increased dramatically in recent years: 23 in 2006, 27 in 2007, 117 in 2008 and 306 in 2009.
In Juárez, the war between two rival drug cartels began in 2008. Part of the government's response was to periodically deploy hundreds of soldiers and federal agents to the border city.
Williams and Rigoberta Menchú Tum led the fact-finding delegation, which visited the three countries in January. Menchú won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for defending the rights of indigenous people in Guatemala.
"Militarization/remilitarization is a significant factor in the increase in violence in Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala and in violence against women in particular," the delegation said in a statement.
"In Mexico in particular, many woman who testified indicated that the 'war on drugs' had increased violence and eclipsed rights. The war on drugs and 'back-up' for companies exploiting natural resources were the primary reasons cited for the deployment of the military in communities."
The Nobel Women's Initiative included meetings with President Porfirio Lobo of Honduras, President Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala, Mexico's Attorney General Marisela Morales and Supreme Court Justice Olga Sanchez Cordero.
Morales said Mexico has special law enforcement units to investigate the women's slayings. In Chihuahua state, Gov. Cesar Duarte said a special prosecutor's office is looking into the killings while another specialized unit is investigating reports of at-risk missing women.
Honduras and Guatemala officials also said they have specialized units to investigate women's slayings.
During their fact-finding mission, the Nobel Initiative delegates met with people who were affected by the violence, with activists and with government officials.
The Nobel Women's Initiative organized the visit to the three countries in collaboration with Just Associates (JASS), an international network of activists, scholars and educators involved in local and national actions in more than 27 countries.
Lisa VeneKlasen, JASS executive director, said, "In countries where more than 90 percent of crimes are never prosecuted, one can imagine how unwilling officials are to go after those committing violent crimes against women and women activists. The lack of prosecution is like giving a blank check to criminals."
The delegation will issue a final report later this year, along with recommendations for the governments of Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala.