Protesters set the doors of the state government building on fire in Monterrey, Nuevo León, on Sunday, following the disappearance of 18 women in less than a month, including a 12-year-old girl.
Activists and relatives of the victims were spurred on by confusion surrounding the identity of a body discovered on Thursday, which was later confirmed to be 27-year-old Marí Fernanda Contreras. There was also anger about the earlier release of a suspect in Conteras’ case and the disappearance of another 18-year-old woman, Debanhi Susana Escobar Bazaldúa, on Friday.
The protest was initially peaceful but became violent after the group tried to enter the government building by force and were repelled by riot police.
The march had been heading toward the state Attorney General’s Office but returned to the government building after the protesters realized that the state Women’s Minister, Alicia Leal Puerta, was going to give a press conference there, which would also be attended by the head of the local search commission.
The protesters tried to push past the officers and some sprayed paint on the helmets of female police officers who said they were beaten by the angry citizens. Some of the group later set fire to the doors of the building.
The state Attorney General’s Office said that citizens were to blame for creating confusion around Contreras’ disappearance. “Many doubts have been expressed about the investigation of the case of María Fernanda Contreras Ruiz, which come from the interpretation of the facts by the citizens themselves,” it wrote on Twitter.
The state government said on Friday that 11 of the women reported missing had been located and that in 14 cases women had gone missing after fleeing, rather than being kidnapped.
State Public Security Minister Aldo Fasci denied that the disappearances were due to a criminal gang kidnapping women. “The rumor that there is a gang kidnapping women has been totally discarded; that is not happening in Nuevo León,” he said.
However, Fasci gave some alarming figures on the rate of disappearances this year. “After the pandemic, the number of disappearances of people in Nuevo León unfortunately increased … We have an average of eight missing people a day,” in 2022, he said.
Fasci added that most of the women that had disappeared were minors: 275 were women and 117 of those were adults.
The protests in Nuevo León began on Saturday when demonstrators called for Fasci’s resignation and chanted “Mariana is not an ally, she is privileged” in reference to the governor’s wife, Mariana Rodríguez Cantú, who heads a state government organization dedicated to social causes.