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LatinNews Daily - 30 March 2021

MEXICO: Police brutality produces international condemnation

On 29 March the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) condemned the killing of a Salvadorean migrant, Victoria Esperanza Salazar, at the hands of Mexican police officers.

Analysis:

Salazar’s case once again highlights the issue of police brutality and the Mexican authorities’ failure to protect foreign migrants on its territory. This could become a major problem for the government led by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador given the latest surge in Central American migrants seeking to enter the US through Mexico. The US government led by President Joe Biden wants Mexico to stem this irregular migration but has been clear that migrants must not be in any way mistreated. The incident raises serious doubts over the Mexican authorities’ ability to respect migrants’ human rights.

  • A Salvadorean national with legal residence in Mexico, Salazar died on 27 March after she was detained by municipal police in the city of Tulum, Quintana Roo state. According to police reports, Salazar was arrested for public disorder and was reported dead hours after taken into custody.
  • Videos of her arrest soon appeared on social media. They show police officers handcuffing Salazar and kneeling on the back on her neck until she becomes unconscious, after which she is put inside a police vehicle. This caused indignation, with numerous civil society groups denouncing the excessive use of force; and likening the incident to the killing of George Floyd, which sparked widespread protests against police brutality in the US last year.
  • The Quintana Roo attorney general’s office has charged four police officers with ‘femicide’ (which carries a heavier punishment than murder) after an autopsy confirmed that the fracture of the first and second vertebrae caused Salazar’s death. But in a statement issued yesterday UN Women demanded the expedited prosecution of those responsible for Salazar’s death. This was echoed by the Salvadorean government, which also issued a statement demanding justice for Salazar.

Looking Ahead: President López Obrador has said that Salazar’s killing “shames” Mexico and that it will not go unpunished. However, Mexico is bound to come under more international pressure to tackle police brutality and safeguard migrants.