[WHRD Alert] MEXICO / Attacks, threats, harassment and assassinations rise against trans feminists and women rights defenders searching for missing loved ones.

Trans feminist activists, women defenders searching for missing persons, and human rights organizations continue to be the victims of assassinations, attacks, threats and harassment by unknown persons and criminal groups. 

During the first days of 2024, five transfemicides have been registered. According to information from the Letra S organization, at least three of the victims were women human rights defenders or recognized people in their communities with notable visibility.  On Sunday, January 14, the activist and defender Samantha Fonseca, awarded the Human Rights Defender Medal of Merit in 2022, was assassinated near Mexico City’s Southern Penitentiary after a visit.   The activist for LGBTIQ rights had previously received a death threat. A few days before, on Thursday, January 11, the trans activist Miriam Nohemi Rios Rios was murdered in the town of Zamora, Michoacán . The defender was a member of the civil organization Igualdad y Respeto para Todos  and the first transgender woman in that region to experience the gender change procedure. She was assassinated by four unknown men at the business in which she worked. 

In addition to these acts, other transfemicides include those of  Gaby Ortíz, who was found lifeless on the 6th of the same month at the side of a highway in Ixmiquilpan, Higalgo; Ivonne, who was found executed next to a man in a room in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz; and another trans woman, as yet unidentified, in San Pedro Tlaquepaque, Jalisco.

The Letra S report, “Traces of Violence due to Prejudice: Lethal and non-lethal violence against LGBT+ persons in Mexico,” indicates that during 2022, at least 87 violent deaths were registered of LGBT+ persons in the country for motives presumably related to their sexual orientation, identity, or gender expression. Trans women were the most numerous victims with 48 transfemicides. The states with the highest number of trans women assassinated in 2022 were the State of Mexico with six cases, and Jalisco and Oaxaca with five each. 

The alarming escalation of transfemicides in Mexico along with attacks and threats against women defenders are of grave concern. The climate of insecurity places groups and collectives of people searching for family members at risk. In the first days of January alone, Lorenza Cano Flores was reported as disappeared by the collective Salamanca Unidos Buscando Desaparecidos Guanajuato , , which she had joined when her brother disappeared in August of 2018. She was forcefully taken away by armed men who violently broke into her home and killed her husband and son.  

Guanajuato is one of the most violent municipalities in the country. From January of 2020 to May of 2023, five searchers were officially registered as having been assassinated there. The most recent, Teresa Maqueyal of the collective Una Promesa por Cumplir, was killed on May 2, 2023.  María Carmela Vázquez Ramírez, of the Disappeared Persons from Pénjamo Collective, was murdered on November 6, 2022, outside her home.  

From 2019 to 2023 in the State of Guanajuato, the Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists  received six  requests for adhesion for reasons of displacement,  of which two came from women journalists from León and four from searching women, two from Salvatierra and two from  Juventino Rosas.

Likewise, on January 20 in Jalisco, women defenders of the Searching for Hearts Collective were intimidated by unknown subjects on motorcycles while they were engaged in a search in the Azucena neighborhood of El Salto. In the face of the attack, one of the collective members was able to activate the panic button, as recommended in the Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, and sought protection from National Guard units.   It should be noted that this is not the first time that the collective has been subjected to violence. At the end of December 2023, one of their members was the victim of a detention attempt by persons in three luxury automobiles. 

We of the National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Mexico and IM-Defensoras repudiate and condemn the transfemicides that have taken place in the first days of 2024 and join in the demand for justice and protection for persons searching for disappeared family members.  

We denounce the wave of violence against searching defenders in Guanajuato and demand the immediate live presentation of Lorenza Cano Flores. We call on the federal government and local governments to implement suitable measures for guaranteeing the protection of all persons and collectives working for the right to truth, justice, and reparation of damages in the State of Guanajuato and the country as a whole. 

In the cases of transfemicides, we send an urgent call to the Mexican government to carry out comprehensive and exhaustive investigations of the facts and to carry on these investigations without re victimizing or violating the sex-gender identity of the women defenders or discarding the hypotheses that these crimes were motivated by their activism or  by prejudice against the gender expression or identity of the victims.

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