Friday, December 17, 2010

Activist Mother Gunned Down

December 17, 2010
Human Rights News
Frontera NorteSur

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

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

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

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

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.

Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico

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