Sunday, March 27, 2011

Women of Mexico in The Crossfire

By Teresa Gutierrez
Published Mar 25, 2011 7:28 PM

Women — mostly teenaged or very young — have been kidnapped, tortured, raped, mutilated and killed by the hundreds in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, sister city to El Paso, Texas.

According to several Mexican and international press accounts, human rights and women’s groups as well as the families and friends of the victims, more than 500 women — factory workers, store clerks and sex workers — have been murdered since 1993 in Ciudad Juárez.

At the end of 2010 and early this year, two women activists, well-known, beloved leaders in the movement in Juárez, were executed in cold blood.

One was Mariesela Escobedo Ortíz, murdered on Dec. 16. Her daughter, Rubi Marisol Escobedo, had been murdered two years ago, her body burned and thrown into a rubbish heap.

The other woman killed was Susana Chávez, an internationally recognized artist and human rights activist. Her body was found in January. She had been strangled, and one of her hands had been cut off.

For the past two years, Mariesela Escobedo Ortíz had worked tirelessly with Justicia para Nuestras Hijas (Justice for Our Daughters).

The month of her murder, she had begun a peaceful protest against the unfair sentence given the killer of her teenage daughter. Escobedo was gunned down in front of the state Capitol building, shot in cold blood as she ran in through the doors seeking help.

Susana Chávez was a member of Qué Regresen Nuestras Hijas a Casa (May Our Daughters Return Home) and author of “Song to a City in the Desert.” She had brought to life the slogan, “Not One More Death,” which has become a rallying cry throughout Mexico.

These two women are among thousands of examples of the deep, state-sponsored and U.S.-orchestrated repression and brutality sweeping Mexico.

There has been an international outcry against the murders. A movement has been launched in Mexico and abroad. Many documentaries as well as mainstream movies have been made about the crisis, including one by Jennifer López called “Bordertown.”

Several mainstream celebrities such as Jane Fonda have traveled to Ciudad Juárez to shed light on the crimes. Women’s groups from the U.S. and elsewhere have joined the appeal.

Yet the injustice continues unabated.

The women of Juárez are dark-skinned, mostly from the Indigenous communities of Mexico, overwhelmingly poor and working class. To the ruling classes on both sides of the border, these women are dispensable.

Moreover, the crimes fit into the current U.S./Mexican political context: They instill fear and terror as the capitalist state dismantles the rights of the working class for the benefit of imperialism.

Despite the repressive and brutal climate, mothers and fathers, friends and families — the entire community — have nonetheless protested and organized nonstop in Juárez to bring world attention to this horror.

Ciudad Juárez industry continues to boom

In December a New York Times article reported that “more than $42 billion in trade value moved through the ports” of Ciudad Juárez in 2009, “representing 15 percent of the total trade between the United States and Mexico. That number is estimated to be even higher in 2010.” It noted, “Since June 2009, more than 24,000 manufacturing jobs have been added in Juárez.”

The assembly line workers at these manufacturing sites — known as maquiladoras, most of which are owned by U.S. companies — make on average $1.60 to $2 an hour. The companies operate in tax-free zones and assemble products for export using imported materials.

The group Maquila Network Solidarity in Canada points out that “gunmen opened fire on buses carrying nightshift maquiladora workers to communities outside the city. When the mass killings of women [it is estimated that more than one-third of these women were working in maquiladoras] first surfaced over a decade ago, industry did little to protect workers, claiming it was not their responsibility because the attacks did not take place on their property. By the 1980s the maquila sector was booming, and after the passage of NAFTA in 1994 it gained even more momentum. Today some 3,000 maquilas operate throughout Mexico, generating a quarter of the country’s GDP.”

According to a Juárez-based university and research institution, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, 10,000 of Juárez’s 500,000 children under the age of 14 are now orphans. The institution states, “It is impossible to know the number of youngsters who have witnessed a killing or stood close to a corpse that’s still warm.”

A massacre is going on in Juárez. For the capitalist class it is business as usual.

The Mexican and U.S. governments must be held accountable for these atrocities. The criminals and those who protect them must be punished for these heinous, misogynist crimes.

In some ways, the silence of complicity and impunity by both the Mexican and U.S. governments is even more shocking and despicable than the crimes themselves.

When it comes to the U.S., the big-business-owned media and government only raise the issue of women’s oppression when it fits into their geopolitical designs, such as an excuse to justify intervention or war.

In Mexico, the illegitimate government of Felipe Calderón, who stole the presidential election in 2006, is inciting violence as a way to subdue the rising tide of struggle.

Repression, however, breeds resistance. The Mexican people have shown over and over that they are willing to fight to the end.
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