Mills student recounts her firsthand experience working to stop the femicides
Hundreds of women have disappeared or been found murdered near the U.S.-Mexico border over the last several years, prompting human rights organizations to call for an international movement to stop the femicides. A Mills delegation visited Juarez and Chihuahua, Mexico over spring break to help bring justice to the victim's families. One of the delegates was Jessica Mosqueda. This is her story.
One of the highlights of our trip was visiting Miguel David Meza Argueta in the State Prison of Chihuahua City, a man that human rights organizations are saying was falsely accused of killing his cousin Neyra Azucena Cervantes. Organizations working to stop the femicides have increasingly rallied to support men like Meza, who says he was tortured into confessing to his cousin's murder only after tirelessly pressuring police to resolve her case.
According to Meza and many non-profits working around the issue, police have responded to international pressure to resolve the Femicides by arresting and framing innocent citizens.
The leader of our delegation had to beg the jail director to let us in to speak with Meza. When we were finally permitted inside, the guards were smoking, eating or swinging their guns back and fourth. After signing in, we were led one by one to a tiny room where a female guard patted us down. They then made us stand in front of a camera, and turn around and in a circle (I'm not sure what the purpose of this was). They led us down to a basement and then back up to a 12 foot by 10 foot room back on the first floor. Minutes later Meza came in the door. He spoke with us about the horrific torture he says he endured, and how groups like us give him the support he needs to continue.
Meza said he recalled having the lights turned off and clothes ripped off, after which point he was shocked repeatedly. Water was also poured down his entire face and body, in order to suffocate him. Meza said he thought of his mother, uncle and cousin throughout the entire time he was tortured. There came a point when there was so much water poured on his face and so many electric shocks that the only thing he remembers was calling out "Jesus Christ" and agreeing to sign anything, just as long as the torture would end.
He was forced to sign three different scenarios of the crime, and this is the only proof against him, he said.
"I wouldn't change the pain that I suffered, what I would change is the pain that Neyra must have gone through and what my mother is going through. If I could, I would also change the authorities so they could find who really killed Neyra," said Meza. "I've seen that my case has brought more awareness about this issue, specifically to Neyra's case."
After listening to Meza's story, Mills delegation members successfully pressured government officials to schedule his sentencing this month. Argueta had been denied a trial date from the moment of his arrest and despite a major international campaign and the efforts of his family to secure one for him, he wasn't able to obtain one until our visit.
One of the government officials that we visited was President of the Supreme Court of the State of Chihuahua, Jose Chavez Aragon. We were accompanied by Meza's mother Carmen Argueta, who asked Aragon many question about her son's case and demanded justice for her son and niece. She tried to take a humane approach to represent the agony her family has been through.
"What would you do if police officials told you that your son will die in jail?" Argueta asked Aragon.
"The same as you," responded Aragon, "I believe you because Neyra's mother came here and told me she is completely convinced that your son is not guilty, but I don't [resolve the cases], I'm only the President of the Supreme Court. What I can do is warn the judge to read the case carefully."
During the meeting Aragon encouraged us to contact the Judge Aram Delgado Garcia, who was in charge of Meza's case. We liked his idea, but we insisted that he call on our behalf. After all, he is the President of the Supreme Court, and having him call to attention that the pressure is on would make a larger impact than our call alone. He agreed, and promptly called Garcia.
"I ask as a favor, that in that case you be very, very, very attentive, and put people to work morning, afternoons and nights. In that type of case you have to work Saturdays and Sundays," said Aragon on the phone. "I need a convincing answer."
After discussing and requesting an answer for the delay, Aragon informed Meza's mother and those of us present that they set a final sentencing date for April.
Although I was present when he called the Delgado, I have to admit that I would have felt more comfortable if he had placed the call on speaker-phone. Those present during the call ran upstairs, and it wasn't easy for Meza's mother to keep up, since she is ill. As soon as he walked in his office, he grabbed the phone and remained seated as he updated us on Meza's case.
Cervantes was 19 years old when she disappeared on May, 13 2003, as she was leaving her technical school located in downtown Chihuahua. A corpse assumed to be Cervantes' was found on July 14. Although a report was filled on the day of her disappearance, police officials began looking for Cervantes only 15 days after the report was filled.
Upon hearing his cousin disappeared, Meza traveled from the state of Chiapas, where he was living, and arrived the three days later to aid in the search for Cervantes. According to Meza, after noting the corruption and impunity of the police and government officials, the family took matters into their own hands. Meza planned protests and blockades which blocked all transit in and out of Chihuahua on a truck route to the U.S.
"I guess I pushed too hard," said Meza, during our visit to the state prison.
I would have done the same as Meza if I were in his situation. What else can you do when you see police official take 15 days to begin the search? When Meza talked to us in the prison I could tell he relived the agony he felt during the time spent before his arrest.