I’m thankful for people who do hard things for the public good while under tremendous pressure. It was recently reported that Mexico’s anti-organized crime law was spuriously used to surveil three such people: Marcela Turati, Mimi Doretti and Ana Lorena Delgadillo. Here is who they are, why the use of the organized crime law against them is so wrong and why I am thankful for them.
Marcela Turati is an award-winning journalist who has done amazing and dangerous work to uncover information about the disappeared in Mexico. She is one of the founders of Periodistas de a Pie, an organization of journalists helping and training journalists doing rights related investigations. Mexico is the deadliest place in the world to be a journalist and Marcela is known for undertaking dangerous investigations.
Mimi Doretti is the leader of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF). This organization uses forensic tools to identify human remains and works with families searching for missing loved ones. The EAAF has helped identify victims of government abuse and organized crime as well as migrants who have perished on their journey to a better life. Mimi and the EAAF have trained young anthropologist throughout the world, including Mexico. Their findings have been used in prosecutions and comforted families of the previously lost.
Ana Lorena Delgadillo runs the Fundacíon para la Justicia in Mexico. The Foundation uses the judicial process to hold accountable those responsible for disappearances and accompanies the victims’ families in the process, which is often long, complicated and painful. They work with families of the disappeared in Mexico, including Central American migrants.
The work of these three came together around the identification of mass graves near San Fernando, Tamaulipas in 2011. In this series of bloody crimes, 193 people, many of them Central American migrants, were taken off of buses, killed and dumped in mass graves. No one has yet to be held accountable.
Now, decade later, the work to uncover the truth about San Fernando continues. As part of this process, the Fundación para la Justicia requested access to the legal case files and was able to get them in 2021. One thing revealed by the documents was stunning. In 2015, the Mexican government had used an anti-organized crime law to investigate these three women, who were not involved in the crime, but investigating the massacre and helping the victims’ families. These women were put under surveillance and their communications monitored as if they might be responsible for the killings. Yes, that is as twisted as it sounds and yet another misuse of Mexico’s anti-organized crime law.
Shame, or better yet accountability, should be heaped upon those who put these amazing women under surveillance. I think the phrase, “they worked tirelessly” is overused. But not when it comes to these three. They make our society better. As we reflect upon 2021 and look forward to 2022, let’s strive to be more like them, brave and tireless; and do more to hold accountable those who seek to intimidate, or do worse, to those seeking justice.
* Joy Olson is the former Executive Director of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a research and advocacy organization working to advance human rights. Twitter: @JoyLeeOlson