The Canal de la Compañía runs through the State of Mexico free or under cement, depending on the sections. Its terrible reputation is not only due to the smell of sewage that spreads through the air while schoolchildren return home, nor to the overflows of the past that flooded the Chalco area. Women's corpses have been taken from that channel, they threw them there and they still throw them there. There are crosses to remember it. The State of Mexico is one of the regions with the highest rates of gender-based violence in the country. In total figures, the entity always appears at the head of the statistics in femicides, around 40 so far this year. When calculated per 100,000 women, it is already in intermediate positions in the table of the 32 States. But there is no doubt that of the 10 murdered per day on average throughout the country, this entity provides undesirable figures.
Two women compete these days to govern the state, Alejandra del Moral, the candidate of the PRI, PAN and PRD, and Delfina Gómez, for Morena, favorite in the polls. On June 4, citizens will decide who is in charge of the emblematic territory of the PRI, cradle of presidents and focus of violence of all kinds. It is the periphery of the capital of the Republic and also has its own outskirts of misery.
Some of the latest high-profile cases of gender-based violence in the country refer to the State of Mexico. In front of the City Hall of Nezahualcóyotl, one of the most populous municipalities of the entity, a banner hangs in the gardens, in which it is remembered that, after many years, justice was finally done in the case of Mariana Lima, murdered by her husband, the former policeman Julio César Hernández. This March, he was sentenced to 70 years, but the victim's mother, Mrs. Irinea Buendía, had been fighting in court for 13 years.
Justice, when it happens, is delayed. It has taken Carmen Sánchez, a woman attacked with acid, almost a decade for her attacker to be sentenced to 46 years. Another historic sentence, in a State, as in the majority, where impunity reaches 95%. In recent days, another process has jumped strongly to public opinion: that of Roxana Ruiz, who killed her rapist in self-defense. She was sentenced to six years for it, but the prosecution has finally withdrawn and the woman has been acquitted. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador was in favor of the pardon.
"The Prosecutor's Office says 'I got Roxana out of jail.' The president talks about pardon. Well, no, it was us!" says Elsa Arista, a member of the neighborhood assembly Nos quiero vivas Neza. It refers to the efforts of the organization and the volunteer lawyers who have brought this case to the young woman's freedom. Arista, who studied history, has been a teacher and now works in a coffee cooperative, distrusts politicians because her career as an activist against gender violence leaves her no choice. They have not met with the candidates because they believe that, at election campaign time, they use the organizations to make the population see that they are resolving their claims. Arista's dream is "to have a shelter for women who are beaten and have nowhere to go." Previous governors, he says, "pure men, have left all projects unfinished."
The statue of the Coyote in Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl.Nadya Murillo
Now she will no longer be a governor, but a governor. Will things change? "For our assembly it would be terrible if Ale del Moral won because, for months, the PRI people have been beating us with the fact that we are subsidized and I don't know how many other things. The PRI and Antorcha Campesina are de facto powers and having won the case of Roxana Ruiz has bothered them, because the aggressor has links with that organization," says Arista. Delfina Gomez, then? "It's not that I like it that much, but it talks about restructuring the judiciary, which is corrupt. I wish they did, because it looks like he's going to win. I don't have much faith, but at least I think they won't criminalize us," he says.
In this organization they know, because they accompany the victims in their processes, that these matters get stuck in the Prosecutor's Office and the courts. "Prevention and justice are needed, because there are public servants, doctors, judges, who are violating the human rights of victims of gender violence every day, by action or omission," says Arista. Although disappearances and femicides are the order of the day in the most populated cities of the State, such as Nezahualcóyotl or Ecatepec, it has not been an issue in which the candidates have abounded in this campaign. Their proposals are vague on paper and in televised debates.
In response to this newspaper, Gómez has explained some of his proposals, which mix new technologies and the coordination of teams to locate and attend to victims as soon as possible, as well as permanent campaigns of values and culture of peace and training in gender perspective for those who have to face these cases. The Morenista candidate promises that in no more than 20 minutes, the "violet cell", with all its actors, rescues and attends to the women victims. And a promise: that those who are sentenced for gender or sexual violence, as well as debtors of alimony will not be able to hold public office.
On the other side of the ring, Del Moral says he has taken this issue of femicides personally and his promises are ambitious even for electoral times. Her program ensures that there will not be a single crime against women without punishment and that "all femicides will be solved. It will be a personal issue," he says in response to this newspaper. The gender police will have 10,000 officers if she wins, she says. There will be panic buttons and mobile applications among other anti-crime technologies. "I personally will be aware of the cases that are reported," he said.
"That there is a woman governor is not a guarantee of anything, the important thing is that they commit to work with the communities, with the expert organizations and that they do not minimize the problem, which is very serious," begins María de la Luz Estrada, director of the National Citizen Observatory of Femicide in Mexico (OCNF). "There are no new proposals from the candidates, they do not have much left to say, because violence does not decrease, they repeat purple programs, pink advertising, but all that has not proven its effectiveness. The authority is laying out the same recipes for problems that have become very complex." Estrada points out the high crime rates in the State of Mexico, "the authorities involved, impunity. Nor are women given protection. We have the tools, the protocols, the legal frameworks, but they are not implemented, there is no prevention, and we continue fighting to evaluate the results of the programs that have been launched," he summarizes. That the candidates do not talk about it shows that they lack the weapons to fight it," according to Estrada.
In the State of Mexico, the number of people living in poverty or extreme poverty exceeds by more than 10 percentage points that of Mexico City, where many of them go to work every day, to sell or beg. Almost half of the population, more than eight million people, has basic deprivation, according to data from the National Council for Evaluation and Social Development (Coneval). A lot of work is needed with citizens, says Arista. "We need the neighbors in those neighborhoods to support us and we can't get there with feminist speeches. If the magistrates have no idea of feminism, imagine the poorest in those areas," she explains. In the state there are many pink things, pink police, pink help cards, posters with purple letters, all that refers to gender policies, but women's rights have not just arrived.
Electoral propaganda of the candidate Alejandra del Moral.Crisanta Espinosa Aguilar (CUARTOSCURO)
There are not many electoral posters in the streets of Nezahualcóyotl, in some you can see Del Moral, who presents herself as "brave governor", and in others Delfina Gómez, who advocates "for change". His electoral promises do not convince Elsa Arista. "This State has declared two alerts, one for gender violence and another for disappearances, but nothing has been solved. In the matter of access to justice, we are light years away from Mexico City. There they put psychologists, social workers, they process alimony and protection measures, and all in five hours. Here there are lines of women who are never taken care of, they are sent from one place to another, who is going to undertake such a process?" says the activist. "In the Edomex people already arrive at the courts knowing that they have to deal with corruption," he says.
Poverty is the factor that Arista constantly mentions. He recounts cases such as that of Ana, a young woman who died burned in her cardboard house. "The aggressor wanted to take Ana's body and the father prevented him, so he burned the house. She wasn't even registered. That's what the poverty belt looks like, they don't go to school, they're not registered, how are these cases going to be known?" That reveals a greater gravity to the figures that the statistics already provide. "And the authorities are colluding, we do not talk much about the issue because we are afraid, but this state is on the route of trafficking, they are peripheries of great misery. We can all be victims of femicides, but the poverty belt concentrates cases of disappearance and crimes, because poverty also leads to organized crime," she adds.
It will be difficult to resolve this issue in the most populous state of the Republic, where all the parties set their eyes, because it is a granary of votes like no other and because of the high influence in politics that has always been attributed to it. On this occasion, one thing will change, there will be a woman for the first time in the governorship, and maybe, for the first time also, millions of people know something in their lives that is not the PRI, but all that remains to be seen. And the consequences of either change cannot yet be seen. No one is optimistic. It will be some time before the waters of the canal stop going black.
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