Women migrants imprisoned for years in south Mexico on false charges

    18 de junio de 2018

    By Eduard Ribas i Admetlla.

    Mexico City, Jun 18 (efe-epa).- Santa Maria Rosales and Guadalupe Perez share the same story: both are women from Central America who fled their homelands to seek a better life in southern Mexico, but instead were unjustly imprisoned for years on charges of people trafficking.

    The Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Human Rights Center (Prodh) has documented in an extensive report the criminalization of six women migrants on the southern border of Mexico who were tried for crimes they never committed and whose rights to a fair trial were violated.

    Before dawn on June 19, 2013, police broke into the home of Rosales, a Honduran living in a village in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, and dragged her away in her underwear to the city of Tapachula on the Guatemalan border.

    There she learned she was being charged with people trafficking, and was tortured until she signed a blank sheet of paper that would later be used as a false confession.

    "The police tortured me...they burned my skin with cigarettes so I would sign blank pieces of paper...they put my head in a plastic bag..." a shaken Rosales told EFE

    That same night, Rosales was locked up to start a five-year sentence, and didn't get out of prison until two years later, after forcing a review of her case by going on a two-week hunger strike.

    Rosales said the punishment she endured was "a mockery" that many other migrants have suffered: "The women in prison were all foreigners - when a Mexican woman was jailed she got out in three days."

    Guadalupe Perez, a Guatemalan Indian who speaks the Mayan language of Mam, never understood she was being accused of people trafficking and corruption of minors until a translator came from Guatemala to her prison cell to inform her.

    Despite living 20 years seeking a new life in Chiapas, Perez still did not understand Spanish very well when she was arrested in the bar where she was working, and none of the police tried to make her understand why she was being detained.

    "They violated my right to see my 11- and 14-year-old children," Perez told EFE, adding that she spent two years and eight months behind bars without having any contact with the public defender.