By Moravia de la O
Last Friday February 3rd, activist Norma Andrade was stabbed in the neck while returning to her home in Mexico City. This is the second time in two months that someone has tried to kill her.
On December 2nd, 2011, Norma was attacked by a man as she was heading towards her car in Ciudad Juarez. Although she offered her keys and wallet, the man fired at her five times. Fortunately, Norma was taken to the hospital and survived the attack. The official response from authorities was to label the incident a botched car theft. However, it is clear that Norma Andrade’s life is in danger because of her continued work documenting and seeking justice for the hundreds of femicides that have taken place in Ciudad Juarez.
Norma Andrade began her work as an activist and human rights defender 11 years ago, after her daughter, Lilia Alejandra Garcia Andrade, was kidnapped, raped, killed, and decapitated in 2001. Seeking justice for her daughter’s death, Norma formed the non-profit May Our Daughters Return Home with family members of other femicide victims. Since then, Norma has been relentless in her efforts to seek justice for her daughter and the hundreds of other women who have been assassinated and forcefully disappeared in Juarez. Because of this, Norma and her family have faced numerous death threats and aggressions.
Unfortunately, Norma’s story is all too familiar in Mexico. Since 2006 when President Felipe Calderon sent army troops to patrol the streets in an effort to dismantle organized criminal groups in Mexico, violence against human rights defenders has increased significantly. According to the 2011 Annual Report published by Human Rights Watch, in Mexico “human rights defenders continue to suffer harassment and attacks, sometimes directly at the hands of state officials. Meanwhile authorities consistently fail to provide defenders with adequate protection or investigate the crimes against them.”
Women defenders are often those most at risk. In the last two years alone, eight women human rights defenders, including Josefina Reyes Salazar and Marisela Escobedo, have been assassinated because of their work while many others have been victims of violence, threats, intimidation, and harassment.
Despite the numerous death threats received by Norma Andrade and her family, the Mexican state failed to comply with the many precautionary measures issued by the Inter American Human Rights Commission and the Mexican National Human Rights Commission. In addition, no one has been arrested for either attack against her. This is not surprising as 98% of all perpetrators are not brought to justice. In this context of rampant impunity, human rights defenders are even more at risk. One human rights defender recently stated: “I don’t need a bullet proof vest, I need access to justice. I need [the state] to reduce impunity, that is a true precautionary measure.”
Meanwhile, the US government continues to allocate money and resources through the Merida Initiative to Mexican security forces, which are unable and unwilling to protect human rights defenders, and the justice system, which is corrupt and ineffective in procuring justice. Given this reality, US citizens must demand that the Obama administration end all Merida Initiative funding immediately and pressure the Mexican state to insure the security of Norma Andrade and the thousand other human rights defenders whose lives are in constant danger.