Wednesday, June 16, 2021

in-focus

In echo of George Floyd killing, a woman dies after police in Mexico pin her down


Face down and with her hands behind her, a woman cries out. She is surrounded by four police officers. One pins her to the ground, kneeling on her back.

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Moments later, she lies handcuffed and silent, barefoot and motionless, as onlookers record the incident, which unfolded Saturday in the Mexican beach resort city of Tulum.

In videos published on Mexican news sites, officers can be seen picking up her limp body and carrying her toward a patrol vehicle. In the clips, they load her onto the back of the truck and appear to roll her over before driving away from the scene.

On Sunday, police confirmed that the woman had died, and opened a homicide investigation.

Later in the day, the four officers were jailed. Prosecutors said they were being charged with femicide.

The Salvadoran government and local media identified her as Victoria Salazar Arriaza, a 36-year-old Salvadoran mother of two who was living in Mexico on a humanitarian visa.

She died of broken vertebrae, according to a statement Monday from the Quintana Roo state prosecutor's office. It accused police of using "disproportionate" force and said that the four officers would be taken into custody on suspicion of committing femicide.

"The law will be applied rigorously so this crime doesn't go unpunished," the statement said.

Mexican media quoted local officials as saying police detained the woman after getting a call that she was acting aggressively toward employees of a convenience store.

The videos have been viewed millions of times on Twitter, sparking widespread anger and calls for justice.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador denounced the "brutal killing."

On social media, users expressed horror at the incident and used the hashtag #JusticiaParaVictoria denounce police brutality. The hashtag soon gained traction, becoming one of the top trends in the country on Twitter.

Police brutality is hardly uncommon in Mexico, but it has received new attention since the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died while being detained by a White Minneapolis police officer during an arrest in the United States in May last year. During his arrest, Floyd told officers he was unable to breathe, uttering the phrase at least 25 times while he was restrained.

In video taken by onlookers, then-Officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes - a widely criticized restraint method.

Chauvin has been charged with second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. His trial begins Monday. The other three officers at the scene of Floyd's death - J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao - were fired and charged with aiding and abetting and will be tried separately in August.

Floyd's death triggered a global outcry, with thousands denouncing police brutality from the streets of London, Paris and other cities around the world.

On Sunday, demonstrators marched in the streets to demand justice for Salazar Arriaza. Some carried signs that read "Tulum Corrupto." They chanted "justice for Victoria" and "no more corrupt killer police."

Salvadorans also demanded justice for the victim.

The Salvadoran Foreign Ministry condemned the incident Monday and said it would continue to work closely with the Mexican government so that "the full force of the law can be applied."

Nayib Bukele, the president of El Salvador, in a tweet Monday, promsied that his government would take care of Salazar Arriaga's two children. "We only ask for justice," he tweeted. "That those who did this face all the weight of the law."

Tulum's mayor, Victor Mas Tah, described the behavior of the officers as "deplorable" and offered his condolences to the victim's family. Mash Tah, who is seeking reelection, demanded a thorough investigation into the incident.

"As a government authority, we join in with the calls from civil society, collectives, and associations. We will not allow these situations in Tulum," he said Sunday, adding that the situation was "unacceptable."

Published : March 30, 2021

By : The Washington Post · Jennifer Hassan