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Protesters marched on Friday in Monterrey after the investigators found the body of Debanhi Escobar. Protesters marched on Friday in Monterrey after investigators found the body of Debanhi Escobar. Twitter @jeeveswilliams

During the week that a woman was being sought in Nuevo León, 80 others disappeared

Federal funding is 'an insult given the seriousness of the problem,' advocates say

At least 80 women and girls disappeared during the 13 days that authorities were searching for Debanhi Escobar, an 18-year-old Nuevo León woman whose body was found late last week.

Escobar was last seen in the early hours of April 9 after getting out of a taxi near Monterrey. Her body was found in a cistern at a motel near the state capital last Thursday.

Between April 9 and 21, at least 80 women and girls disappeared in 19 states across Mexico, according to the national missing persons registry. Morelos, a small state that borders Mexico City, recorded the highest number of disappearances with 14, followed by México state with 10.

Jalisco and Mexico City each recorded nine disappearances of women and girls in the 13-day period, Sinaloa registered eight and Nuevo León – where a protocol to expedite searches for missing women and girls was recently implemented due to the high number of recent disappearances –  reported seven.

More than half of the 80 females who disappeared were aged between 10 and 19, including 18 girls aged 14 or younger. Three foreigners – women from Honduras, the United States and Germany – were among those who disappeared.

New York Times journalist Oscar Lopez shared an image from Debanhi’s funeral on Twitter.

Women and girls accounted for 45% of all disappearances between April 9 and 21, whereas only about one-quarter of all missing persons in Mexico are female.

Disappearances of women and girls – which in many cases end in murder – are part of the broader gender violence problem in Mexico, where approximately 10 females are killed every day and countless more are attacked, raped and abused. The federal government has been accused of not doing enough to address the problem, but President López Obrador has rejected the claim.

Despite his assurances that the government is committed to combating violence against women, only a minuscule fraction of the federal budget is spent on programs that are designed to do just that. Less than 0.02% of the approximately 7-trillion-peso 2022 budget, or under 1.2 billion pesos (US $59.2 million), was allocated to four such programs, the newspaper El Universal reported.

Guadalupe Ramos Ponce, deputy coordinator of the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights, described the resources allocated to the programs – among which are ones designed to prevent violence and provide refuge to victims – as “an insult.”

“They’re crumbs. There’s no recognition of [women’s] rights, of the problem, of anything. They’re not even crumbs – I think that … [the level of funding] is an insult given the seriousness of the problem in the country,” she told El Universal.

The director of the National Network of Shelters (RNR), which supports female victims of violence and their children, said that the 79 shelters that make up the network have not yet received the 2022 funding that was pledged to them.

“The shelter program doesn’t only have a significantly lower percentage of the budget [compared to previous years], but to date the resources haven’t been released,” Wendy Figueroa said.

“In other words the resources are limited and their delivery is inadmissibly late because we’re talking about human rights, the lives of women and children,” the RNR chief said.

The coordinator of Aquí Estamos (Here We Are) – a collective of female journalists dedicated to exposing the killing of girls of Mexico and pressuring the government to do more to combat the problem – said that the fact that there are so few anti-violence and victim-support programs, and the scant funding for them, are together “a reflection of the disinterest” of the government to address the gender violence scourge.

“Assigning this minute budget in the face of the seriousness of the problem is a mockery,” Perla Blas said.

With reports from Reforma and El Universal 

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