[WHRD Alert] MEXICO / Defender Ángela Almeras León, member of Union and Strength for Our Disappeared People Collective was assassinated in Tecate, Baja California

Last February 8th, defender Ángela Almeras León was assassinated in the city of Tecate, Baja California. She was President of the Union and Strength for our Disappeared People Collective and she was searching for her brother José Juan Vázquez León, disappeared since 2018.

According to reports in state media and civil organizations, an armed man entered the defender’s place of business located in the Loma Alta neighborhood and shot  her. The aggressor fled the scene in a car that was set ablaze and abandoned on Cualiacán Street, one kilometer away from the scene of the crime. 

It is important to note that several days beforehand, the public defender had posted a video on social media in which she pointed out the discovery of a body, which had  a search file. Due to the excess of cases, the experts delayed in arriving for the removal of the body. Ángela had also denounced the lack of personnel in the Attorney General’s Office and other government institutions involved in the search for missing persons. 

In 2023, the search defender convoked a press conference of local news media to denounce that after searching for three years, she was able to ascertain that her brother had been found in a common grave, but neither the Attorney General of Baja California nor the forensic service medical personnel had notified her of this. 

Furthermore, according to a statement issued by the human rights organization Elementa, the city of Tecate in Baja California is the second municipality with the highest rate of disappeared people in the country. Because of her work of searching for missing persons, Ángela Almeras had a panic button that she activated on the day of her assassination. She had received the device after requesting protection from the State Mechanism of Protection for Journalists and Human Rights defenders due to threats she had previously received. 

Ángela Almeras publicly denounced the lack of State support and security in her search for disappeared persons, and also presented evidence of the negligence of authorities in recovering bodies found by the families themselves and by the Union and Strength for Our Disappeared People Collective in Baja California.

Ángela Almeras’ assassination took place in an atmosphere of feminicidal violence, impunity, and lack of effective mechanisms of protection for women defenders. It follows other cases of searching defenders who have been deprived of life. These include Teresa Magueyal, of the A Promise to Keep Collective, who was assassinated on May 2, 2023, María Carmela Vázquez Ramírez in Guanajuato, Esmeralda Gallardo in Puebla, Rosario Lilián Rodríguez in Sinaloa, Ana Luisa Garduño Juárez in Morelos, and Brenda Jazmín Beltrán Jaime in Sonora in 2022, added to the threats, aggressions, and intimidation against the Warrior Hounds and Until I Find You collectives, and to the report of the disappearance of searcher defender Lorenza Cano Flores issued during the first days of January by the Guatemalan group Salamanca United in the Search for the Disappeared.

We of the National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Mexico and  IM- Defensoras repudiate and condemn the assassination of  Ángela Almeras and join in the demand for justice and protection for persons seeking their disappeared family members. 

We reiterate our concern over the situation faced by women defenders and family members of disappeared persons in their searches and demand that the Attorney General’s Office of the state of Baja California carry out a thorough, comprehensive, and gender based investigation that exhausts all lines of research, with respect for work in defense of human rights and guarantees for the adoption of all necessary measures of reparation and family protection. It is the obligation of the competent authorities to employ all necessary measures for the protection of persons and collectives working for the right to truth, justice, and reparation of damages in the state of Baja California and the country as a whole. 

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