Feminist collectives in Mexico City have been occupying the headquarters of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) in the centre of the capital since Thursday (09/09). Workers have not been allowed to enter, as the collectives aim to turn the facility into a shelter for victims of violence.
Yesenia Zamudio, one of the women who are occupying the CNDH, summarized in an interview with journalist Carmen Aristegui the exhaustion that paved the way to such an action: “We are asking for a life free of violence. There are so many of us women who have experienced violence that we are fed up. Tired of not being attended to, of being treated like beggars. We want to be seen.”
Many women activists have described the femicide and attacks being faced by women in Mexico as a ‘macho violence.’ Every year, thousands of women are murdered in Mexico as last year’s femicide rates reached record highs at 3,000. These rates and the lack of action being taken by the government has led to increasing mobilization in societies across Mexico, and especially among women. On March 8, the capital city experienced a monumental march which was participated by thousands of women, a mobilization that had not been seen since the marches in protest of the disappearance of the 43 students of Ayotzinapa in 2014.
During the seizure of the building, the protesters found generous cuts of meat in the refrigerator, which they displayed on the balcony as an indicant of the Commission’s luxurious lifestyle. Eye-catching images were leaked from the interior of the occupied building, showing several women sitting in the liberated offices, chanting slogans such as ‘we neither forgive nor do we forget’.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador who spoke on the subject, stated that he is against violence (referring to the action, not the femicide rates) and criticized the fact that the painting of Francisco I. Madero was ridiculed. “Those who do that either don’t know the story (…) or are conservative,” he said this Monday during a press conference. “I understand that there is a lot of pain (…) but violence is not the way”, he added.
López Obrador defended the actions of the head of the CNDH, Rosario Ibarra, of whom he said “she is not an academic” and recalled her history of struggle during the search for her missing brother. The president has assured that the women will not be evicted from the headquarters in order “not to fall into temptation” and “because we are not equal”. But he defended himself saying that “when we were in opposition we never acted like this and faced very strong things”.
Zamudio, the mother of a murdered young woman, responded to López Obrador: “It is ridiculous to compare our struggle with the image of that man (Francisco I. Madero). This is not the fight against the porfiriato, it is a struggle of women for a life free of violence.”
Arrests and intimidation
Another group of feminist protesters set fire to the offices of the Commission of Human rights of the State of Mexico (CODHEM) located in the municipality of Ecatepec. The action occurred after during the early hours of this Friday elements of the Attorney General’s Office of the State of Mexico (FGJEM) evict the facilities that had been peacefully occupied by the women’s group.
As with the action which continues in the CNDH, the action in CODHEM was also being carried out for the victims of crimes against women, for those who have not yet obtained justice.
In the early hours of September 11, the protesters were jailed and intimidated by security elements in the municipality of Atizapán de Zaragoza. Attacks by police officers against journalists were also recorded.