A candidate for mayor who spent six years seeking justice for the murder of her husband was killed earlier this month in Oaxaca. She was the 18th candidate to be killed in Mexico since the electoral season began last September.
Ivonne Gallegos Carreño, National Action Party (PAN) candidate for mayor in Ocotlán de Morelos, was murdered by armed men while traveling on highway 175 south of Oaxaca city on March 20. A man driving the vehicle in which she was traveling was wounded in the attack.
The murder of Gallegos, a dentist, former PAN lawmaker in the Oaxaca Congress, mother, staunch feminist and women’s and indigenous rights activist, is being investigated as a femicide, according to state authorities.
Eufrosina Cruz Mendoza, another indigenous rights activist, former state minister of indigenous affairs, ex-PAN lawmaker and a colleague and close friend of Gallegos, told the newspaper Milenio that she had little doubt that the murder was politically motivated.
The day before the attack, Gallegos filed a political violence complaint with the Oaxaca Electoral Institute against people who had been threatening and defaming her, she said.
“She experienced harassment, questioning and defamation in the final days before her murder,” Cruz said, adding that the candidate also asked for protection while on the campaign trail.
However, no protection had been provided to Gallegos before her murder nine days ago, a crime that left her 10-year-old son without a mother and a father.
Gallegos’ husband, José Luis Méndez Lara, was shot dead in March 2015 in Ocotlán, located about 40 kilometers south of Oaxaca city. No one has been arrested in connection with that crime and no motive has been established.
Gallegos knocked on doors for six years seeking justice for her husband but it never arrived, Cruz said.
“She left [the world] with that frustration and anger. It really pains me because a boy has been left an orphan: his father’s gone, his mother’s gone. As a society what do we say to him? That we became indifferent? That justice is not capable of providing a response?”
Cruz said that Gallegos was a passionate feminist and women’s rights activist who worked tirelessly to achieve gender equality.
“She was my friend, confidante and sister – we did everything together, we dreamed that things could change,” she said.
After noting that Gallegos will now be unable to achieve her dream of making “her beloved Ocotlán” a better place to live, Cruz said that justice must be served and that the murder of her friend mustn’t be allowed to become just another statistic.
“The prosecutor mustn’t hesitate, not just in Ivonne’s case, there are many other cases. … They [the authorities] have to provide … certainty to women that we can trust the justice system,” she said.
Eight days before Gallegos’ murder, another female candidate in Oaxaca was targeted in an armed attack. However, Aime Rodríguez Vázquez, candidate for mayor of Zimatlán de Álvarez, survived and subsequently filed a criminal complaint with the state Attorney General’s Office.
Other female candidates in Oaxaca and other parts of Mexico have faced online smear campaigns designed to derail their political ambitions.
“All women who decide they want to participate in public life” face the prospect of being intimidated or attacked, Cruz said.
“… They’re taking our lives, our dreams, they want to cut our wings,” she said.
Source: Milenio (sp)