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Salvadoran Refugee Victoria Salazar Dead After Police Brutality During Arrest

On the same day that opening arguments in the George Floyd trial began, social media was ablaze with calls for justice after another death at the alleged hands of the police. Salvadoran woman Victoria Esperanza Salazar Arriaza was arrested on March 27 in Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico after a local shop owner called the authorities due to concerns over her behavior. A policewoman and three male police officers were on the scene and according to El Salvador.com, they used excessive force to detain her on the ground. Video footage shows 36-year-old Victoria crying in pain as they held her down despite her pleas. She reportedly lost consciousness and in the video footage, her limp and handcuffed body can be seen carried onto the back of a police pickup truck. She died in the aftermath. (WARNING: Video contains distressing footage) 

“They held my daughter down too forcefully. They tortured her, to put it bluntly. You can hear her screaming. I think her final screams came when they snapped her neck and broke several of her ribs. I believe that no human being deserves to die like this,” Victoria’s mother Rosibel Emérita Arriaza told Amnesty International.

Quintana Roo State Prosecutor Oscar Montes de Oca told Mexican outlet Milenio that the police officers used “disproportionate” use of force.” She died of “a fracture of part of the upper spinal column produced by the rupture of the first and second vertebra which caused the loss of the victim,” he said.

ElSalvador.com reported that the police officers are in custody and will go before a judge in the case of femicide which has a prison sentence of up to 50 years. According to local media, the mother of two daughters, age 15 and 16, moved to Mexico as a refugee in 2018 on a humanitarian visa. She left her hometown of Sonsonate in El Salvador to escape the gang violence and had been working in Tulum, a popular resort town, as a housekeeper in a local hotel.  El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele urged that the “full force of the law” be applied in Mexico and said that El Salvador will care for her daughters once they are repatriated.

“It was not only machismo, but also racism that killed Victoria,” Monica Fernandez, an activist and member of feminist organization  Siempre Unidas Quintana Roo told El Pais newspaper. “Can you imagine if she had been white or European? Do they really want us to believe that they would have grabbed her like this and thrown her on the floor like that?”

Local media reported an average of 10 women are killed every day in Mexico, and less than 10 percent of those cases are solved, Aljazeera shared. Government data shows that 987 women and girls were murdered in Mexico in the first four months of 2020, and of those, 308 are categorized as femicides, according to Mexico’s Secretary of Security and Citizen Protection. Victoria’s death has fueled the #NiUnaMenos movement to call for justice with dozens of women in Mexico City and in Tulum gathering to protest her death. Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said that she was “brutally treated and murdered” by police.

“I see thousands of outraged Mexicans, demanding justice for our compatriot,” President Bukele said. “They are as outraged as we are. Let us not forget that it was not the Mexican people who committed this crime, but rather some criminals in the Tulum police.”