The following was written by a comrade whose sister tragically became a victim of femicide, which has become a plague on Mexican society. The comrade demands justice for her sister, and every other victim of the rotten capitalist system, which has violence against women written into its DNA. Not one more woman murdered! Justice for Sara Abigail and all victims of femicide!
Sara Abigail Salinas Sandoval was a working-class woman: health conscious, very active and conscientious, she practiced sports, and especially enjoyed going out for long-distance rides with groups of cyclists. She was a girl who could easily relate to people, she made friends with the most diverse social circles. Her plans were to get ahead, start a business (a coffee shop) and continue her studies. She was a student of gastronomy at the Autonomous University of the State of Hidalgo. She had a knack for playing the piano, at which she was very studious, and she was a talented photographer.
On the night of Sunday 25 August, 2019, in the municipality of Zempoala, Hidalgo, she was found dead. She was 22 years old. Our mother, Claudia Sandoval, found her lying on her bed. The aggressor had staged the scene to try to pass the femicide off as a suicide, placing a plastic bag over her face. The autopsy revealed that the cause of death was asphyxiation due to suffocation, her thorax was depressed. External factors in the scene and on her body clearly indicate that she was murdered. Unfortunately, Sara's is not an isolated case, in Mexico more than 10 women are murdered every day. It is said that more than 250 femicides have occurred in the country so far in 2020.
She wanted to leave behind a person who hurt her a lot, a man who controlled her since she was 16 years old. When she was a minor, this individual began a romantic relationship with Sara and never accepted that she no longer wanted to be with him. But this goes beyond a conflict between two people, as I explained in the article Femicide in Mexico: Symptom of a Sick System: "Violence against women is structural, linked to the bones and nerves of the current capitalist system."
Many of the femicides are perpetrated by the partners and former partners of the victims, but there is a whole system that causes oppression and justifies it, in addition to protecting stalkers and murderers. That is why these cases are recurring and go unpunished.
Complicity of Jehovah's Witnesses
Sara and her murderer met in a congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses (it is important to mention this, because this organisation now plays the role of protecting the alleged culprit). Said congregation is located in Pachuca de Soto, in the state of Hidalgo. Years before, our whole family belonged to that religion, but by 2012, when Sara was 16, only she continued to attend the congregation.
I know mothers of murdered girls who believe in and seek solace from God (but who also seek justice on this earth). Although I do not share their beliefs, they deserve all my respect; but I must say that the Church has played a historically reactionary role. In their structures, women are relegated to a secondary position, one of submission, and when any abuse of any kind is committed, whether sexual, psychological or physical, the Church does everything in its power so that it does not come to light. I am not only talking about the Catholic Church, I am talking about all the religious institutions, all those institutions that hold in their teachings the most disgusting machismo and defend the existing patriarchal structure. We must include here the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania: legal entity of Jehovah's Witnesses that, it must be said (and this is worth looking into) is a millionaire society, which employs thousands of its members without any type of remuneration. It is made up of voluntary workers who live in their headquarters known as Bethel. But this is a subject for another article.
In this congregation, the abusive relationship that this much-older individual had with Sara was known (I will not mention names because the individual has not even been subjected to prosecution). The adults who knew about the situation remained silent. No one sought out her parents to warn them of the danger Sara was in. Years passed and this relationship continued in secret.
In the last weeks that Sara was alive, she decided to leave this relationship that made her feel less valuable than she really was, that made her feel used and disillusioned. The individual looked for her constantly and called to harass her. Even my dad and I witnessed one of those calls, the night of Friday, 23 August, two nights before the femicide, in which an individual insisted that she come out. That call lasted more than half an hour; Sara never agreed to his propositions.
Days after Sara's femicide, her best friend (who also belongs to that congregation) contacted my mother to inform her of who could be the main suspect: the person who made her distraught in the last days of her life, due to his insistence on looking for her. It was at this moment that we learned about this relationship.
Under pressure from Jehovah's Witnesses, the girl who called herself her best friend and member of her family, and those people who "considered her part of their family," have re-victimised Sara. They have stated that she was a promiscuous girl, who liked to go to parties, drink alcohol and have sex.
They have directed their testimonies to suggest that she committed suicide, becoming accomplices of the murderer, validating the suicide set-up he staged the day he took my sister's life. There is no willingness to point to the alleged murderer; on the contrary, they say they are not aware of any romantic relationship between them. In their actions, their conservative thinking is evident, which points to and judges the victim, leaving aside the killer's culpability. For them, it is better to safeguard the false honour of Jehovah's Witnesses than to oppose the crime against Sara. The tragedy is that other girls are in danger of being abused and even murdered within their congregation.
The state protects perpetrators of femicides
This is where the search for justice for our family begins, which is a path full of obstacles that are laid by the very same authorities who are supposed to be responsible for guaranteeing justice and due process. The authorities tried to use the suicide motive as the main line of investigation in the case. It was at that moment that my parents had to confront the Public Prosecutor's Office (Ministerio Público), to prevent the case from being closed. The first thing that had to be done was to initiate the investigation with a gender perspective, something that was not done by treating it as a common homicide.
Losing a daughter, sister or friend in this way is difficult and what lies ahead is a whole process of healing and recovery. However, in Mexico, the families, who are also victims of this situation, cannot afford that “luxury”. What we then had to do was commit to days of investigation: searching for and interviewing her friends and acquaintances, seeking videos of security cameras in the surrounding streets, getting the numbers of the security camera posts (C5i) on the entire route that goes from Pachuca to Zempoala to request those videos, talking with neighbours to find out if anyone saw something strange. We also sought legal advice. We were helped by the activist and journalist Frida Guerrera, who runs the association Voices of Absence (Voces de la Ausencia), and by the IMT in Mexico: La Izquierda Socialista, since the authorities did not provide this assistance to us until three months after Sara's femicide.
The Mexican justice system is plagued with corruption. In many instances, investigating agents ask families for money to start doing their job. It is also a common occurrence that their lack of interest hinders investigations.
In addition to corruption, there was negligence and mistakes made in the investigation. The crime scene must be properly protected, as it may be necessary to make more expert inspections. In this case, Sara's home, where she was killed, was released immediately. Historical experience has shown us that it is with organisation and social struggle that we have managed to conquer our basic democratic rights. It has been through the struggle in the streets that women have put the problem of gender violence and femicides (its crudest expression) on the political, national and international agenda.
Our family has found the need to use the resources of my organisation: this is how it has been possible to make small advances in the case. It was social pressure that kickstarted the prosecution against the murderer of Ingrid Escamilla (a girl from Puebla murdered and later skinned on 9 February). It was mobilisation and the enormous social pressure that led to the arrest of the alleged murderers of little Fatima Cecilia (who disappeared on 11 February and was later found lifeless). It was mobilisation and pressure that led to the conviction of the murderer of Lesvy Berlin Osorio, a UNAM student.
Through La Izquierda Socialista and the International Marxist Tendency, we started an international campaign to collect signatures. Comrades from various countries sent messages calling for justice to different authorities of the state of Hidalgo and at the federal level. It was in this way that, after three months had passed since the start of the investigation, the authorities sent the case to the prosecutor’s office division of gender crimes.
In our case, we had to resort to utilising the resources of the organisation, but unfortunately not all families can count on this help. Bourgeois legality only serves those who have more (it is classist and patriarchal). When the daughter of a mother, who is the head of the household, is murdered, she has to decide between going to work to support her family or leaving everything aside to seek justice. It has also happened that a femicide is committed and the murderer is a man with influence or money to buy off the authorities. Relatives can do little due to the lack of resources or due to the threats, many decide not to follow up and their daughter becomes part of the 99 percent of cases that go unpunished. The entire justice system of the Mexican state protects the rich and those who commit violent crimes against women.
Omar Fayad Meneses, governor of the state of Hidalgo, declared on social media: “It is very necessary to change the reality that women are living in Mexico. Enough with the violence.” And he spoke in favour of the women’s strike on 9 March. This is gross hypocrisy. Violence in the state is increasing, Sara's case is unfortunately not the only femicide in the jurisdiction, we also have cases of missing comrades. Does the governor want to end violence against women? Start with ensuring justice on the cases of femicide such as Sara Abigail.
We know that the problem of violence is a crude inheritance from the past, but my sister was killed when Andrés Manuel López Obrador was already elected president. Is it wrong that we ask for justice? Is it wrong to fight to eradicate violence against women? Femicides are a national emergency and it must be a priority of the current government to address them, ensuring that impunity for perpetrators and the negligent state is eliminated.
We demand that the state and federal government address the case of Sara Abigail and the rest of the women killed and ensure there is justice. Enough of impunity and corruption, the state must stop protecting the murderers.
Join this fight
Throughout the world, insurrectionary movements are emerging, in which the masses are expressing their frustration with the current conditions of life. This capitalist system is leading us to an increasingly critical situation. The inequality gap continues to grow more and more. Exploitation of every kind, whether labour-related or sexual, continues to exist. Employment opportunities are scarce, violence can make any of us fatal victims. While some focus only on their own affairs believing that none of this will affect them, we believe that this system must be eradicated. Organised actions are steps forward to achieve this goal.
In recent months, we have seen how the women's movement has grown. We see not only mass marches but also thousands of women (and also men) creating their own spaces to organise and seek an explanation for the current situation.
We as Marxists want to make it clear that it is not only feminism that fights for the emancipation of women, that fights against gender violence, against machismo and against patriarchy. We fight on all these fronts, with the difference that we place not the gender struggle but the class struggle at the forefront. To definitively eradicate violence against women, we must end the capitalist system and the state that provoke it.
Sara Abigail was not only a victim of a man, but of a whole system: a society and institutions that reproduce and tolerate sexist violence, objectify women, making us disposable objects once we no longer serve them.
To everyone who had the pleasure of meeting my sister Sara and also those who did not know her, but who understand how alarming the problem of femicides and all the history of sexist violence behind them is today, I call you to join this movement that seeks justice. I call on everyone who wants to help us find justice, not only for Sara, but for everyone. After writing these lines the slogan: "No, it is not an isolated event, femicides are crimes of the state" seems to me to make a lot of sense.
We demand from the government of Hidalgo and the federal government, justice for Sara Abigail and the victims of femicide!
Not one more woman murdered!
Down with capitalism, which murders women!