An anguished mother who had been actively and openly searching for her missing son for nearly three years was abducted on Tuesday night and found murdered the next day in her small town in Sinaloa.
Rosario Lilián Rodríguez, a member of the mothers’ activist group “Hearts Without Justice,” was forced into a white truck by armed men shortly after leaving a special Mass that was dedicated to her son Fernando, a 20-year-old who disappeared in October 2019.
Her abduction occurred on the United Nations’ International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearance, and she was murdered between 9 p.m. that night and the early morning hours of Wednesday, when when her body was found in La Cruz de Elota, a city of 15,600 people about an 80-minute drive north of Mazatlán.
Onlookers reported that she had been forced into a Chevy Suburban, and her body was found on the street.
Sinaloa Governor Rubén Rocha Moya said an investigation is underway and also shared his sympathies on Twitter, writing, “I deeply regret the murder of Rosario Rodríguez Barraza, a tireless fighter like many other Sinaloan women who are looking for their loved ones.”
According to ”Hearts Without Justice,” Rodríguez and her family had been threatened and attacked on previous occasions. “They had already sprayed gasoline on her house to set it on fire, they tried to disappear another son of hers, and on one occasion they took a truck from her and returned it to her the next day,” said a member of the group who requested anonymity out of fear of reprisals.
According to the media portal Pie de Página, La Cruz de Elota is known for its location facing the sea — and for how fearful residents know that it’s best to keep quiet and mind their own business.
According to Rodríguez’s children, their call to 911 after their mother was abducted was to no avail. “They didn’t send a single patrol,” an activist told the reporters whose article appeared in Pie de Página. “We know that 20 minutes make a difference, and nobody did anything.”
Several weeks ago, in a short video recorded by the “Until We Find Them” project (#HastaEncontrarles), Rodríguez held a photo of her son Fernando and said, “I don’t know about his whereabouts. I have searched day and night, and … all I know is that he was taken away by armed men in a white car.”
She denounced the prosecutor’s office in Mazatlán and other institutions. “I am waiting for an answer. I am looking for my son. I am not looking for those responsible,” she said.
Rodríguez was a day laborer who worked in the nearby fields cutting chiles, and her son Fernando was a day laborer, too, according to Pie de Página.
Groups of activists, feminists and those who search for the missing spoke out in various public ways after the murder. “We demand justice!!” the collective “For the Voices Without Justice” wrote on Facebook. “We call on the authorities of all levels of government [to take action]. [The criminals] took the life of a person who only demanded the return of her son. Now we become the voice of our partner and demand what she longed so much for — the return of [her son]. We are not going to be silenced.”
The article in Pie de Página, a lengthy investigative piece by two reporters who are members of the #HastaEncontrarles project, said that Rodríguez “was a victim of institutional abandonment: when her son disappeared and they did not look for him; when they threatened her and nobody protected her; when they kidnapped her and nobody answered the calls for her rescue.”
After her son disappeared in 2019, Rodríguez filed a complaint with prosecutors in Mazatlán, but then took it upon herself to investigate, allegedly finding videos, witnesses and other evidence on her own. In the recently taped interview, Rodríguez insisted that her son’s perpetrator was being detained in a prison in San Luis Río Colorado, Sonora, but the Sinaloa Attorney General’s Office told her that was beyond its jurisdiction and nothing could be done.