ROME – Following the disappearance and murder of an 18-year-old woman in Mexico, the Catholic Church in the country blamed the crime, as well as others like it, on a failure of the state.
On April 8, Debanhi Escobar was left on the side of a highway, wearing a skirt and high-top sneakers. No one saw her again until late April 21, when investigators managed to pull her body from the 12-foot-deep water tank near a pool at a roadside motel. Authorities first claimed it had been an accident, but the family of the victim has confirmed that she was sexually abused.
Escobar’s case made headlines because of a haunting photo taken by a driver who was supposed to take her home the night of her disappearance. It was not clear why she got out of the car, but her father, Mario Escobar, has said prosecutors told him that surveillance camera footage suggested the driver inappropriately touched his daughter.
“I suppose that my daughter did not put up with the harassment,” the father said. The driver has been questioned, though his full name has not been released. The victim’s father said that while the driver may not have killed her, he was responsible for his daughter’s death.
According to an editorial in Desde la Fe, the weekly magazine of the Catholic Church in Mexico, “the State has a high degree of responsibility, since it has failed in education – which is the basis for a country to have a healthy social structure – in guaranteeing security to its citizens and in guaranteeing justice to the victims.”
The piece cited that in that the northern state of Nueva Leon alone, more than 300 women have been reported missing so far this year, of which dozens are still unaccounted for, while in the entire nation an average of more than 18 women go missing every day, according to the National Search Commission.
In this context, the editorial stated that after the disappearance of a woman, it is “very common that the responsibility is imputed, at the drop of a hat, to the victim herself or to her closest circle of relatives or friends.”
“The Debanhi case is the mediatized expression of a reality that, unfortunately, has become ‘normality’: our missing women,” the editorial said.
The text also considered that the social fabric “is severely fractured,” so “everyone is co-responsible in the task of reversing the anti-values.”
It denounced that the young face of Mexico “is being disfigured at an accelerated pace due to immoral public policies, corruption, drug trafficking, exclusion, violence, human trafficking, kidnapping, pornography and abortion.”
The editorial also cited Pope Francis’s visit in 2016, when he recognized the way in which parents were uniting to recover their children “snatched” by organized crime, including drug trade, human trafficking, kidnapping and death, things that not only bring suffering but also slow down development.
“And it is only working together as a society – without leaving and demanding the State to fulfill its duty to protect its governed – that we can think and project a future, a tomorrow of hope,” the editorial said, before, again, quoting the pontiff, this time the homily of his first Mass in 2022: “How much violence there is against women. Enough. To hurt a woman is to outrage God, who took the humanity of a woman.”
Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador dismissed the situation, and the fact that over 95,000 people are currently on the missing persons list. During a press conference the day after Escobar was found, he said that the discovery “shouldn’t worry” Mexican women because these things “happen everywhere.”
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