A 26-year-old Oaxaca woman faces years of recovery after she was doused with sulfuric acid in an attack her family claims was ordered by a former state lawmaker.
María Elena Ríos Ortíz, a talented saxophone player and travel agency employee, was attacked with acid on September 9 by a man who requested an appointment with her under the pretext that he needed assistance to apply for a passport.
As Ríos was filling out a form in the Huajuapán de León travel agency, the man poured a bottle of acid over her, burning her face, chest and legs.
“The first thing my sister did was scream and move towards a sink to rinse herself off with water,” Silvia Ríos told the newspaper Milenio.
“But she took too long,” she said, adding that her mother was also at the travel agency and also suffered burns during the attack.
After three months in hospital in Huajuapán and Oaxaca city, where medical personnel lacked the expertise to treat her severe burns, Ríos was transferred to the National Rehabilitation Institute for Burns Victims in Mexico City on Friday and was finally assessed by specialists on Monday.
According to a report by Milenio, Ríos could have recovered much more quickly had she received adequate medical attention straight away.
Her family is now worried about how they will pay for the specialist treatment she requires, the newspaper said. Silvia Ríos said her sister has been depressed as a result of her predicament and told her that she would rather be dead than in the condition in which she finds herself.
According to the Oaxaca Attorney General’s Office, three people were involved in the crime: the man who poured the acid over Ríos and two who planned the attack.
Attorney General Rubén Vasconcelos said that a lot of progress has been made on the investigation and pledged that those responsible will not go unpunished.
For its part, the victim’s family is convinced that the attack was ordered by a former Oaxaca lawmaker with whom Ríos was previously in a romantic relationship.
“We know that it was him. His name is Juan Antonio Vera Carrizal. He is an ex-deputy, a gas station owner and a businessman,” Silvia Ríos said.
She said Vera and her sister initially had a work relationship that developed into a romantic one.
When the relationship ended, the 56-year-old former Institutional Revolutionary Party lawmaker attempted to persuade Ríos to return to him, Silvia said.
When she refused, Vera began to harass her via text messages, she said, explaining that the messages harassed, denigrated and threatened her.
“He called her a slut . . . he even called my mom and made up stories that she slept with several men,” Silvia said, adding that when her sister was in hospital she received similar messages to those sent by Vera which warned that she would be killed if she didn’t stop making claims about who was responsible for the attack.
A month after the attack, Vera – who according to his state Congress biography is married and the father of three children – denied any involvement in the crime in a radio interview.
“María Elena Ríos worked with me and we have a friendship but that doesn’t mean anything. If you have a healthy lifestyle that’s the way you’ll live but if you have a lifestyle that isn’t normal, you’ll have problems,” he said, seemingly insinuating that promiscuity was a factor in the attack.
“The Attorney General’s Office must investigate and capture the person that committed this terrible act,” Vera added.