MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico has reopened the case of a 73-year-old indigenous woman who died after allegedly being raped by members of the military 13 years ago during the so-called war on drugs, the government said on Thursday.
The decision to review the case comes a week after Mexico’s representative for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) said in a hearing that the victim, Ernestina Ascencio, died from health problems, sparking backlash from some government officials.
Alejandro Encinas, deputy interior minister responsible for human rights, rejected the comments and called on the prosecutor of the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz, where the alleged rape occurred, to reopen the case until “all lines of the investigation are exhausted.”
Ascencio, an indigenous Nahuatl speaker, was found seriously injured after being dumped in a field in February 2007, according to her family.
Ascencio’s daughter said her mother told her that soldiers attacked her before she died at the hospital.
Medical personnel confirmed that Ascencio had injuries consistent with rape, Encinas said, speaking at the president’s regular news conference on Thursday.
The local prosecutor’s office accepted this version of events, though it was rejected by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission at the time, which declared the death due to other causes after exhuming Ascencio’s body.
Encinas blasted former President Felipe Calderon, who was in office at the time, for insisting that Ascencio died of “chronic gastritis.”
Calderon’s 2006-2012 administration faced multiple complaints of human rights violations committed by soldiers after the government enlisted the military to combat organized crime.
Encinas said the IACHR would receive an update on the case at a new hearing in January, and that he would coordinate with the organization for an appropriate outcome, including reparations for the victim’s family.
(Reporting by Raul Cortes in Mexico City; Writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Matthew Lewis)