Spoils of war: women murdered by fuel thieves

Women have become the targets of an “extermination war” between criminal groups who are fighting to control fuel theft

Spoils of war: women murdered by fuel thieves
Femicide and violence against women has increased in the last decades - Photo: Jose Luis Gonzalez/REUTERS
English 17/02/2019 13:32 Mexico City Aurora Villaseñor Actualizada 16:58
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María Salguero Bañuelos, a feminist activist says that in Mexico's central region, where there is a strong presence of fuel thieves, women have become the targets of an “extermination war” between criminal groups who are fighting to control fuel theft.

María Salguero created an interactive map that has registered femicides in Mexico since 2016, which have increased along with fuel theft. Salguero, who is a geophysicist from the IPN, says there is a link between fuel theft, which has surged in the last decade, and femicide in the municipalities located in the so-called “fuel theft triangle” in Guanajuato: Celaya, Salamanca, Irapuato, León, Apaseo el Grande, and Apaseo el Alto.

In an interview with EL UNIVERSAL, she explained the link between the two.

How did you find the link between femicide and fuel theft?

– There are similar violence patterns in the bodies of the murdered women, they are found on dirt roads, they were tortured, with a shot on the head or along with messages from cartels. Since they are fighting for fuel, the control of the areas, women are seen as the spoils of war, they are used as trophies, it's an extermination war against the enemy but also against the families.

The role of women in fuel theft is unknown; nevertheless, sexual aggression is a way to frighten people from a certain place or entire communities. They hurt the enemy by murdering the women close to them, they are seen as belongings.

You're also a consultant for the United Nations, how does the organization interpret this phenomenon?

– The model of the Latin American protocol for the investigation of violent deaths of women for gender reasons, from UN Women, explains that femicides that take place in the context of armed conflicts develop between the two main poles behind the femicide motivation: women seen as a possession and as sex objects but there's a third motivation, the product of the merge between the other two, which is women as objects possessed by the opponent, that is, as a possession owned by the enemy that has to be attacked in different ways, in order to hurt or defeat them

The femicides that are the product of the third motivation are characterized by a lot of violence, the presence of sexual violence, the display of the lifeless body in public places, along with explicit messages or humiliating and degrading manipulations for the women and their communities.

That is, women are reduced to the condition of a strategic asset owned by the rival...

– Yes, the murders using 9 millimeters guns, AK-47 assault rifles, and AR-15 rifles predominate, as well as 5.7 millimeters guns, which can perforate 10 layers of armor.

Later, they found them inside bags, wrapped in sheets, dismembered or burnt, which is another common factor.

How has this crime evolved in your register?

– We found that in the “fuel theft triangle”, from 2018 to 2019, the number of murders increased from 35% to 50% and they were women along with their partners or with men close to them, such as their father, brother, boyfriend; multiple homicides and multiple homicides of families also increased.

How do you evaluate the authorities' response?

– In the case of Guanajuato, we believe that femicides should be registered and investigated through a gender perspective.

The state's Attorney General, Carlos Zamarripa Aguirre, tends to criminalize the victims by claiming they were linked to organized crime; that's why it's necessary to study the context of each one and understand why the family involves them or what inequality situation drives them to that. Many times they are kidnaped by criminal groups.


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