Case Files: Testimonies of Rape by Police in the Aftermath of Atenco
As Mexican Politicians (Guided by U.S. Advisors) Deny the Evidence, Each Woman’s Story Corroborates the Next
By Al Giordano
The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in San Salvador Atenco
May 17, 2006
Mexican presidential candidate Felipe Calderón – of president Vicente Fox’s National Action Party (PAN, in its Spanish initials) – told reporters last weekend that he doesn’t believe the reports that police raped and sexually abused women detained May 3 and 4 in Texcoco and San Salvador Atenco.
The candidate – who is advised by two gringo political consultants, Dick Morris and Rob Allyn, on how to handle questions from the press – said that an accusation of rape, “is so delicate that it requires clear elements of proof.” Calderón went so far as to accuse Fox’s own National Commissioner of Human Rights, José Soberanes, who furnished hard evidence of at least 23 rapes of Mexican women while under arrest, of “speaking badly against the country and I totally rebuke him.”
Calderón was joined in this politics-of-denial by the police commissioner of the State of Mexico (and former national police director) Wilfrido Robledo Madrid, the man who personally supervised the violent police raids of early May. Robledo – intellectual author of the crime – told the daily Milenio on May 15:
“As of today we don’t have any reports from anyone who says she was raped… If we had the name of somebody who was raped, we would begin the investigation. But up to now we don’t have any. I put the prosecutor’s office at the disposition of everyone arrested, and until now, as far as I know, nobody has been interviewed who has been raped… Ten days have already passed and I don’t know of a single woman raped.”
Asked by the Milenio reporters about statements by Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos that various police rapists used condoms while raping the women, suggesting premeditation in the crimes, Robledo exclaimed:
“That makes me laugh!”
As Wilfrido Robledo Madrid was giggling, investigators from the human rights organization Comite Cerezo interviewed 19 Mexican women political prisoners inside of Robledo’s state prison on Monday.
These are their testimonies. Again and again, they corroborate the testimonies of the four foreign women who were deported to their home countries of Spain, Chile and Germany after their arbitrary arrests and sexual torture in Atenco. Such as the testimony of Catalonian Maria Sostres, who told the daily El Pais in Spain: “They stuck objects, fingers and keys in their vaginas. They forced one girl to say ‘Cowboy! Cowboy!’ while a police officer smacked her ass.”
Her testimony is corroborated – and deepened, sadly – by the political prisoner who Sostres witnessed being sexually abused in that instant, according to the Comite Cerezo’s case file. That prisoner, Italia Méndez, is known to Narco News as a serious, committed, and honest single mom. She works with La Kinta Brigada, a collective that, among other projects, works with goat herders in San Luis Potosí’s desert regions. An intelligent, coherent, soft-spoken, dignified person, we interviewed her about sunnier matters last summer during a meeting of Non-Governmental Organizations and collectives in the Lacandon Jungle.
The ordeal that Méndez suffered this month at the hands of the police – she was arrested during a raid on a private home, and charged with blocking a highway (from inside the house?) on the morning of May 4th – is as upsetting as its consequences. Her forthrightness in detailing the abuse to the human rights observers makes liars of Wilfrido Robledo and Felipe Calderón.
“Police stripped me, sexually raped me, beat me, and forced me to travel nude for approximately four hours”
Méndez, 27, testified:
“I was arrested in a private house in San Salvador Atenco, raided by the Federal Preventive Police. They stripped me of all my belongings and money. They forced me against the wall with my hands at the nape of my neck, struck my head with the nightstick. They held me up and in front of a camera they questioned me about my political affiliation, my address, my name and the names of my immediate family members. Subsequently I was taken from the house and seated on the sidewalk. There were many more people around me. I had to cover my head and face with my sweater, as they struck me repeatedly on the head with clubs and kicks in the buttocks and back. They caused a six-centimeter head injury.
“Minutes later they made me walk between two rows of police officers escorting the bus in which they would transfer us. They went on beating me all the way to the bus and inside there were many handcuffed people with their heads covered, stacked on top of each other. They placed me on top of the pile and later they dragged me toward the rear seat, there a policeman put his hand inside my blouse and he tore my brassier. Immediately, he put his hand inside my pants and he tore my panties. I found myself on my stomach with my face covered, they pulled my pants down to the ankles and my blouse over my head. They hit my buttocks hard, shouting at me that they were going to rape me and kill me.
“Then a policeman shouted at me to call him ‘cowboy’ and he struck my bottom even more violently, but now with his nightstick and he didn’t stop until he heard me say what he asked. He then penetrated my vagina with his fingers and squeezed my breasts hard, then violently pinched my nipples. He invited another policeman to do the same and all the while they continued striking me. Later they invited a third person who they called boss, this last one penetrated me with an object and they threatened to rape me (intercourse). They put me above the penis of one of them and he rubbed himself against my buttocks while the other two police officers encouraged him to penetrate me with his penis, but he did not do it. They repeatedly struck me on my breasts and they struck my stomach while they kissed me on the mouth. How I resisted! The punches were so hard that I would open my mouth so the policeman could put his tongue in my mouth.
“I was naked for the entire journey on top of two more people while a policeman traveled seated on my back and head. Until we arrived at the prison and they permitted me to dress and I was lowered down off the bus.”
Méndez summarized the abuse se received at the hands of police:
“PFP and State Police stripped me, sexually raped me, and beat me, and forced me to travel nude for approximately four hours. They beat and abused all of the people who were on the bus.”
A photographer, Méndez is left, now, without her work tools. According to the human rights organization file, the police stole from her “photographic equipment, cash, a cell phone, books, her diary, debit cards and a credit card,” valued at 25,000 pesos (about $2,300 dollars). She remained in prison 11 days – perhaps that long in order to erase the injuries that would prove she was raped – and was released last Monday, but still faces charges of blocking a highway that she was not even near at the time of her arrest.
“He put his hands under my underwear, forcefully pulled my thighs apart, and stuck his fingers in my anus…”
Norma Aide Jimenez Osorio, 23, of the state of Mexico, was anally raped by a police officer after her arrest. She testified to the Comite Cerezo:
“I was arrested on May 4, 2006, outside of San Salvador Atenco by the Federal Preventive Police. They beat me with a shield to throw me down, and once on the floor two police officers beat me with nightsticks and fists. Then they put me on my feet and made me run even though I had told them that the beating they gave me caused my right leg to fall asleep. They kept on beating me and a third cop joined them, punching me on the back. The others beat me with clubs. All three said they were going to rape me and kill me. They asked me questions and they beat me. The threatened to disappear me and they touched my genitals.
“They put me on a bus and laid me down on the floor telling me not to move, not to speak. My head was covered by my own sweater from the moment they arrested me and there they continued moving me around, they kept threatening to rape and to kill me. They forced me off the bus with punches and kicks and put me on the back of a truck where they beat my thighs without stopping with their nightsticks. My head was still covered, facing down. When I couldn’t take it anymore I tried to cover my legs with my hands and they beat my hands until I took them away. Then he put his hand under my underwear and forcefully spread my thighs, sticking his fingers in my anus.
“After more death threats and kicks they took me from that truck back onto the bus, and made me sit in the last row and put my tongue in their mouths. At least four officers squeezed my breasts and pinched my nipples. At least three cops stuck their fingers, many times, in my vagina, while they insulted and beat me. Suddenly many other compañeros and compañeras began to be put on the bus and I could hear them raping and beating them all. They tortured us all the way until we arrived at the prison, where I had a lot of pain in my hands, on my hip, on my right arm, in my womb and on my legs, but they refused to give me medical attention.”
The police took from Jimenez, according to the Comite Cerezo file, “a backpack, watch, books, personal objects and all my photographic equipment: camera, lenses, filters, film, flash, cleaning equipment and money.” Estimated value: 8,500 pesos (more than $800 dollars).
“He put his fingers in my mouth and in my vagina and forced me to conduct oral sex. I spit his sperm out onto my white sweater…”
Gabriela Tellez Vanegas is an 18-year-old housewife with two children. She was coming home from work, in Texcoco (site of the first conflicts, when police forced eight florists from the marketplace on May 3rd), waiting for the bus to take her home. This is her testimony to the Comite Cerezo:
“The police saw me there and one said to me, ‘what are you looking at?’ And another said, ‘put her on the bus because she’s a loser.’ They began to hit me and asked my address, age, name; three of them took me aside because they wanted to keep kicking me and beating me with clubs. One of them grabbed my face. He put his fingers in my mouth and in my vagina and forced me to conduct anal sex. I spit his sperm out onto my white sweater. Another cop came and did the same. He grabbed my breasts and said: ‘This is very good and she’s milking, right? Whore of a bitch!’ They took my photo with my eyes closed.
“Again they made me give oral sex, coming in my mouth and I spit it out on my sweater. A third one came and did the same to me, and I spit it on my sweater. He said that if I wanted him to help me I would have to be his prostitute for a year and he would come see me whenever he wanted to. They took off my sweater, refused to give it back to me. A fourth cop came, he put his hands on my vagina and breasts and wanted me to give him oral sex. Another one came and said, ‘Not now, man, because we’ve already arrived.’ They began to clean my pants and hands and gave me a cigarette to smoke. But I don’t smoke or drink. And they took me down, with my eyes closed, to the Santiaguito prison in Almoloya.”
How do you feel, kind reader, after listening to just three of these testimonies? There are sixteen more case files already posted at the Comite Cerezo website. The rest are no nicer, nor easier to read or digest. We will share them all with you before this investigation is over. Meanwhile, think about these three; imagine these fine people as your mother, your sister, your wife, your lover… or as you.
And in that light, consider the continued denial by the Mexican state (and its foreign political consultants) that these crimes happened.
Just two hours ago, a report via the Mexican daily El Universal told that the same state police commissioner who oversaw the police raid that carried out these crimes – Wilfrido Robledo Madrid – continues to stonewall. His boss, Humberto Benítez Treviño, chief of staff for the State of Mexico, “said that the state government is not in any condition to begin an investigation of the alleged sexual rapes committed against women by police, since there are no legal bases to do so, since the women were not subjected to gynecological exams…”
And think about these three women – your mother, your partner, your sister… – and whether any woman in her right mind would allow these animals to “examine” them after the repeated abuses they experienced in their custody.
And think about the state’s motive for keeping these women incommunicado, behind bars, for ten days before allowing human rights organizations to interview them. Is it because they are dangers to the public? Or was it to erase the evidence in the form of bruises and sperm on and in their bodies?
At times like this, for the men in power, it doesn’t matter what common sense says. It doesn’t matter what conscience demands. What matters, the only thing that matters, is surviving politically. And so the script they spout is not even theirs. The intellectual authors of these crimes sit behind desks. They wear suits and ties. They take polls and spin dimwit journalists, via surrogates, to deny their guilt. They beat, rape, steal and lie by remote control. But this story is not over. It has only begun to be told…
Julie Webb-Pullman and Elizabeth Kath assisted in translations of testimony for this story.
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