April 17, 2021

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Death of Victoria Salazar ignites more outrage in Mexico

3 min read

Female groups in two Mexican cities have taken to the streets in protest, demanding justice for the Salvadoran woman.

The death of Victoria Esperanza Salazar – a Salvadoran migrant who died in Mexico after a policewoman put her knee on her back for several minutes – continued to evoke outrage on Tuesday, after additional details of her life and how she died surfaced.

Dozens of women in the sprawling capital Mexico City and in Tulum, the city where Salazar lived, took to the streets in protest. Women chanted, waved signs, scrawled graffiti and held “die ins” on Monday evening, demanding justice.

Protesters also took the streets of El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador.

Salazar, 36, died on Saturday after police said they responded to a public disturbance call in the resort town of Tulum.

“She did not deserve to die like this,” Rosibel Arriaza, Salazar’s mother, told journalists outside the Salvadoran foreign ministry. “I feel indignation, I feel powerless, I feel frustrated,” she said. “I would have wanted to be there as a mother.”

Women taking part in a protest against the killing of Victoria Salazar Arriaza in San Salvador, El Salvador March [Jose Cabezas/Reuters]

She also called for justice for her daughter, saying even though she knows that it would not bring her daughter back, it would give her some satisfaction knowing that those responsible “paid” for what they did.

In the viral video, Salazar could be heard screaming as a female officer puts a knee to her back while she was handcuffed and barefoot face down on the ground. Three other male police officers were standing by. The video then cuts to the officers carrying Salazar’s limp body still handcuffed onto the back of a police pick-up truck. She was not seen being administered any medical help.

Quintana Roo state prosecutor Oscar Montes said in a video on Monday that Salazar had died of a broken neck. Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Salazar was “brutally treated and murdered”.

Local media reported that Salazar, who is survived by two daughters aged 15 and 16, had moved to Mexico in 2018 on a humanitarian visa. In Mexico, she worked as a housekeeper in a local hotel.

Officials said the four officers, three male and one female, have already been fired, detained and charged with femicide.

Rosibel Emerita Arriaza, the mother of Victoria Esperanza Salazar, speaking to  journalists in Antiguo Cuzcatlan, El Salvador [Salvador Melendez/AP Photo]

But in Tulum women said the move was not enough. Women held signs reading “The system killed Victoria” and chanted “paradise reeks of blood”, referring to the town’s famous sandy beaches and parties.

“It was not only machismo, but also racism that killed Victoria,” Monica Fernandez, an activist in a feminist collective in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo told El Pais newspaper. “Can you imagine if she had been white or European? Do they really want us to believe that they would have grabbed her like this and thrown her on the floor like that?”

Citing official records, local media reported an average of 10 women are killed every day in Mexico, and less than 10 percent of those cases are solved.

Salazar’s death also drew comparisons with the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last year after a white police officer put a knee against his back for nearly nine minutes. His death provoked protests all over the United States and around the world. It also ignited a widespread reckoning on race, police brutality and discrimination.

A painting of Salazar amid flower petals and other items on the ground in San Salvador, El Salvador [Jose Cabezas/Reuters]

El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele urged Mexico to apply the “full force of the law” and said his country would assume the care of Salazar’s daughters. Local media reported that they would soon be repatriated to El Salvador.

Amnesty International condemned Salazar’s killing and said called on Mexico to ensure justice and that reparations are made to her family.

“We consider it unacceptable that police abuses such as Victoria’s femicide continue to occur in Mexico,” the group said in a statement.

“The authorities must strengthen the police forces with specialized training in the appropriate use of force to prevent grave human rights violations from being committed by those who should be protecting us.”

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