The death of a woman after a brutal arrest revives criticism of police in the Mexican Caribbean. The Quintana Roo prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into the officers.
TULUM Quinatan Roo (Excelsior) – Lying face down on the asphalt, with her hands cuffed and a policewoman’s knee on her back, a woman screams and complains under the gaze of three other agents. Moments later, she is unconscious, and the police officers are heard saying: “she is still breathing” before loading her body into the patrol car.
The woman, Victoria Esperanza Salazar Arrianza, a Salvadoran national, eventually died on the way to the police station. The scenes of the brutal arrest at the hands of the municipal police of Tulum, recorded by neighbors and uploaded to social networks, have reignited the fuse of indignation in one of the most exclusive tourist spots in the Mexican Caribbean.
The dissemination of the events, which took place on Saturday afternoon, has provoked the reaction of the institutions of the State of Quintana Roo and even the Salvadoran president, Nayib Bukele. The state prosecutor’s office announced Sunday that it had opened an investigation to determine the municipal police’s responsibility in the case. The prosecutor’s office statement already qualifies what happened as “homicide,” pending the completion of the autopsy and the studies of the forensic experts on the cause of death.
Bukele, for his part, has seconded the statement of his Foreign Ministry where they demand “the Mexican authorities to speed up the judicial process.” Through a Twitter message, the Salvadoran president insisted “that those who did this should receive the full weight of the law.”
According to the police version, it occurred after a call for “disturbance in the streets and aggression to workers, pedestrians and by-standers” in a store located in the Tumben Ka neighborhood. According to the same version, Salazar showed “aggressive” behavior that triggered the harsh police arrest. After being immobilized, the official account concludes that “she subsequently fainted. She was taken to the unit, and on the way, she began to convulse; they removed her handcuffs and transferred her to the health center; they took a long time to admit her, and when the ambulance arrived, she was declared without “vital signs”.
The mayor of Tulum, Víctor Mas Tah, has also come out with a video posted on his social networks. “It is unacceptable,” said the alderman, in addition to announcing that the four policemen have been removed from their posts while the investigation by the prosecutor’s office lasts. A few hours after the incident came to light, a protest called in front of the municipal Public Security and Transit Department of Tulum resulted in altercations and clashes between protesters and police officers on Sunday afternoon.
The police in the tourist areas of the Mexican Caribbean has been in the eye of the storm since November, when a group of some 50 municipal police officers from Cancun, less than two hours drive from the Caribbean coast of Tulum, broke up a feminist demonstration in front of the Municipal Palace with gunfire. The brutal repression resulted in two journalists with gunshot wounds and allegations of sexual assaults by authorities during the march.
The events even precipitated a resounding condemnation by the Office in Mexico of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR Mexico). “The police must be governed by principles of use of force, which include necessity, proportionality, prevention, and accountability,” demanded the UN in a communiqué that is once again valid after Saturday’s events in Tulum.
The special rapporteurs also emphasized the government’s obligation to “protect, not attack, women.” In Mexico, ten women are murdered every day. Eight out of ten have suffered male violence. And barely 4% of crimes of sexual violence in the country are reported. Mexican feminist organizations condemned Salazar’s death. The Red Feminista Quintanarroense pointed out that it is a sign of the “lack of training and guarantee of Human Rights and the inexistence of detention protocols with a gender perspective.”
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