The next day, the 7-year-old girl was declared missing. She was later found dead, her body in a plastic bag.
The body of Fatima was discovered in Tláhuac, a municipality in southern Mexico City, over the weekend, according to Ulises Lara López, spokesman for the attorney general’s office in the city. She was raped and sexually beaten before she died, Mexico City Attorney General Ernestina Godoy Ramos said at a press conference Tuesday.
Femicides – the killing of women because of their gender – have risen 137% in the past five years, according to Mexican Attorney General Alejandro Gertz. A total of 1,006 were reported in 2019, compared to 912 the previous year.
But even that number only illustrates part of the problem: every day ten women are killed in Mexico, according to authorities and activists who claim that multiple cases should be classified as feminicides.
The femicide rate was described on Monday as a “socially ill” by the country’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador – but he was also convicted of other comments on the assassination of Fatima, who appeared to blame the neoliberal economic policies and society on his together.
Meanwhile, the boy’s relatives blamed the authorities for wasting the first precious hours after his daughter’s disappearance.
‘Crime will not go unpunished’
Fátima was last seen in the company of a woman who, through video surveillance, was seen picking up the girl from school, the Mexico City attorney general’s office told reporters Monday.
Later that day, her mother went to school to pick up her daughter but was unable to find her. She reported that she disappeared the next day after frantically searching for her unsuccessfully.
A white vehicle identified in the area also attracted investigators’ attention. Authorities interviewed at least five witnesses and a property in the Xochimilco neighborhood was searched.
The Mexico City Attorney General’s office also urgently asked the public for help, offering a reward of 2 million pesos ($ 107,000) in exchange for any information, particularly the woman seen on video surveillance and where she is, according to Lara López during the press conference on Monday.
Officials said the woman is the key to the investigation, but did not say whether she is suspected or not.
During a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Mexico City attorney general Ernestina Godoy Ramos said the investigation and interrogations continue, allowing them to sketch the woman in the video.
“We want to ask everyone to support us with the diffusion of the image, as well as the physical characteristics of the person we are referring to,” he added adding that this woman was the key to the investigation. “It is essential to know where the woman is and everything that has happened,” said Godoy Ramos.
But since then, relatives have blamed the authorities for dragging their feet in the first hours after the relationship.
Sonia López, the girl’s aunt, told reporters on Monday: “It is not possible that they have lost key hours to find her.”
“It may have been found alive and nobody paid any attention to it,” he said angrily adding that there were people who sympathized but the authorities did not have the “resources”.
Godoy Ramos ordered an investigation into the actions of the Attorney General’s Office in the nation’s capital following complaints that authorities did not assist when the complaint was filed for a missing person.
“I have instructed the investigator’s office to conduct a detailed investigation into the actions of @FiscaliaCDMX [Mexico City Attorney General’s Office] who was aware of the complaint about the disappearance of the girl Fátima Cecilia, “said Godoy Ramos on his Twitter
account Tuesday morning, adding that the investigation “will be open to the family” and “the investigation will be promptly informed”.
“I want to express my deepest sympathy to the mother and father of Fatima, to her brothers and to each of her relatives, and to emphasize that we will not rest until we find the guilty, all the guilty,” he added in a press conference Monday.
In a separate press conference on Tuesday, Godoy Ramos reiterated that any “act of omission or negligence” by the authorities would be “sanctioned by law”.
The mayor of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, on Twitter described the murder of Fatima as a “scandalous, aberrant and painful” act, days after writing in connection with the killing of Escamilla that “femicide is an absolutely crime it is scary when hatred reaches extremes as in the case of Ingrid Escamilla. “
“This crime will not go unpunished,” added Sheinbaum, regarding the Fatima case.
But as anger grows over the most recent case, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has come under scrutiny.
López Obrador condemned the crime when asked by reporters on Monday, but said punishment alone was not the solution.
At a press conference, he blamed the rise of femicides in part on a society that had “fallen into decline, a progressive degradation that has to do with the neoliberal model”, saying that these crimes were caused by hatred “, problems social, family problems, “a” social disease “.
“This does not end with prisons and the police or harsh threats,” López Obrador said on Monday. “We must strive for the profound substance of the well-being and well-being of the soul.”
Neoliberalism is a frequent target of López Obrador’s anger, but his decision to refer to a common political discussion point in relation to the topic of femicide has angered many observers.
Numerous commentators criticized the President’s response to a burgeoning crisis. The hashtag # JusticiaParaFátima – “Justice For Fátima” – has also trended on Twitter.
Femicides and other violent crimes have sprung up in Mexico in recent years. More than 35,000 murders were recorded in 2019, a record number that exceeds the previous high of 33,341 set in 2018. Many of the murders are related to the violence of the drug cartel.
‘The community is afraid’
Anger was already on display in the streets of Mexico before the body of Fatima was found. Her discovery did nothing but increase the mistrust between right-wing women’s protesters and the country’s authorities.
“I was born and raised here and now the violence is more than ever,” Armando, 59, told CNN at Escamilla’s Friday demonstration in Mexico City, asking to go by his name only. “It was too violent and the community is afraid.”
The decision of a handful of newspapers to publish disturbing leaked photos of Escamilla’s body sparked outrage, and some women took part in Friday’s march in solidarity with Escamilla on the same weekend during which Fatima’s body was discovered.
The fear had been fueled by the gruesome murder of Escamilla that week, which sparked public action.
During a press conference on Thursday, López Obrador said that the person responsible for the loss of the images should be reprimanded. “This is a crime, which must be punished, whoever it is,” he said.
The protesters created a vigil with flowers and candles in front of the building where Escamilla’s body was found, with a photo of him hanging on the wall. Others carried signals urging government action.
But Friday’s march was not the first time that Mexicans took to the streets to protest the rate of femicides. Similar events have occurred in recent years, usually triggered by other high profile cases.
“Mexico faces a major challenge in terms of violence against women,” said the National Women’s Institute after Escamilla’s death, in a statement that also stirred the media to publish the images.
The organization held a moment of silence for Fátima on Monday.
The body of Fatima was put to rest on Tuesday afternoon while anger across the country resonates with the latter victim in a country spoiled by violence and impunity.
CNN’s Jack Guy, CNNE’s Ana Cucalón, Juliana Gonzalez, Fidel Gutiérrez and Adrián Ledezma contributed to this report.