Mexico: Mexican Police Raid Women’s Shelters

23 June 2010

In Mexico, not even shelters for victims of domestic violence are safe from trouble. Recently, refuges for battered women and children have been the object of raids by armed male police officers in Monterrey, Cancun and Ciudad Juarez.

In the tourist resort of Cancun, municipal police searching for a woman attempted to enter the Center for the Integral Attention of Women, a shelter directed by well-known women’s rights advocate and journalist Lydia Cacho, late last month. Center staff, however, successfully blocked the armed men from entering the building.

A shelter in Ciudad Juarez wasn’t so lucky. On June 9, a group of 14 men, several of whom were armed with high-powered weapons, showed up at the “Without Violence” safe house founded by the late activist Esther Chavez Cano.

Led by Roman Garcia, the men claimed to be enforcing a legal order by Juarez Valley Judge Guadalupe Manuel de Santiago Aguayo to find and turn over a minor child, Lesly Itzel Munoz Gonzalez, who was involved in a family dispute.

Shelter staff initially refused to allow the men inside, but relented after being verbally threatened and shown a gun. Once inside the building, the men reportedly hit furniture and looked underneath a bed, to the alarm of the women and children present. Not finding Munoz on the premises, the men left.

The incident elicited a sharp protest from women’s rights groups in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua City. Signed by the Women’s Human Rights Center and the Women’s Roundtable of Ciudad Juarez, a statement demanded that Chihuahua Governor Jose Reyes Baeza and Chihuahua Supreme Court President Rodolfo Acosta Munoz guarantee the safety of shelter clients, staff and activists.

According to the two groups, the police intrusion left clients - who are already exposed to violence in their lives- in a state of fear. Under the center’s rules, men and guns are not allowed on the property. The activists also demanded the immediate relocation of the shelter to a new site, and the firing of justice system officials responsible for violating the victims’ sanctuary.

Writing about the raids, Cacho contended that the presence of armed men in places where women and children fleeing violence are supposed to be safe and secure was linked to an overall situation of lawlessness and impunity.

“In the three cases the state and municipal police knew there was no authority, and that they could utilize the force of the state for personal vengeance and warn the victims they are not safe anywhere,” Cacho wrote.

Sources: Cimacnoticias, June 14, 2010. Gladis Torres Ruiz.
El Universal, June 14, 2010. Article by Lydia Cacho.