“MX” for Borderland Beat
|The State Attorney General’s Office (FGE) has launched an investigation into the death of a woman on Saturday afternoon in the municipality of Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico.|
The death of a woman pinned to the ground by police in the Caribbean beach resort of Tulum has sparked a national outcry after video on social media showed the officers standing around her body before loading her onto a patrol truck.
A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office of the state of Quintana Roo said four police officers at the scene – three men and a woman – were under investigation for their probable involvement in the Saturday evening incident. They said fingerprints and forensic evidence were being examined in the case.
A video published by news site Noticaribe showed the woman squirming and crying out as she lay face down on a road with a policewoman kneeling on her back with male officers standing by. The video then cuts to show the woman’s prone, handcuffed body lying on the road. Officers are later seen moving the limp, shoeless body into the back of a truck.
“There will be no impunity for those who participated in the death of the victim, and all the force of the law will be brought to bear to bring those responsible to trial,” the office said in a statement.
The footage has shocked a nation that is currently rocked by demonstrations about its record of violence against women: official government figures suggest at least 939 women were murdered in 2020.
Video of the incident, as presented by Grupo Reforma
The National Commission to Prevent and Eradicate Violence Against Women (CONAVIM) condemned the Tulum incident on Twitter and said it was in communication with authorities to ensure that “those responsible were punished, justice is done, and nobody commits crime with impunity”.
The incident was described as “police abuse” on Twitter by Mexico’s deputy interior minister responsible for human rights, Alejandro Encinas.
Mexicans have already noted the similarity to the case of George Floyd, the black American man whose death in May, as a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck, sparked racial justice protests in the United States and around the world.
The trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck, began on Monday.
Her name was Victoria Esperanza Salazar, 36-year-old woman from Sonsonate, El Salvador, who was living in Mexico under a humanitarian and/or refugee visa. She worked as a cleaner in Tulum’s hotel area.
Her mother said that Victoria left El Salvador for a number of reasons, including gang violence, the lack of employment opportunities, and low salaries. She is survived by her two children, ages 15 and 16.
An autopsy concluded that Victoria died from a broken neck. The examination found “a fracture of part of the upper spinal column produced by the rupture of the first and second vertebra which caused the loss of the victim,” Quintana Roo State Prosecutor Oscar Montes de Oca said in a video.
The injuries were “compatible and coincide with submission manoeuvres applied to the victim during her detention” and demonstrate a “disproportionate” use of force. He said his office was preparing femicide charges against the four police officers.
The Governor of Quintana Roo confirmed that the officers involved in the killing had been removed from their posts and are pending an investigation.
By Monday, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele had both voiced their condemnation of the incident.
Lopez Obrador said the woman had been “brutally treated” and the case caused Mexico “shame, pain, and embarrassment,” before vowing that justice would be served. Bukele tweeted that “criminals in the police of Tulum” had committed the murder and that he wanted to see “the full weight of the law” brought against them.
The case offers a rare example of Latin American leaders quickly breaking rank with police forces to condemn their actions before an investigation is completed.