Interview with Liliana Plumeda, women’s rights activist
(The following interview is reprinted from Issue No. 265 — Nov. 20) of Tribune des Travailleurs [Workers Tribune], the weekly newspaper of the Democratic Independent Workers Party / POID, of France. Liliana Plumeda is also a member of the Organization of Workers and People / OPT.)
Question: What happened in Cancún on November 9th?
Liliana: A rally of mostly women in front of the Municipal Building was dispersed by the police with tear gas and live ammunition. Women arrested that day also denounced the sexual violence committed by the police against them.
Question: Why this rally?
Liliana: People assembled to demand the punishment of those responsible for the murder of Bianca Alejandrina, “Alexis,” a 20-year-old woman whose dismembered body was found in various garbage cans. This assassination is one of eleven murders of women every day acknowledged officially by the authorities.
There was another aggravating circumstance: The authorities did not lift a finger when her disappearance was reported to them, nor when she received threats. Alexis was an activist; she campaigned for women’s rights, and the right to abortion, in particular. The population was deeply outraged by the murder and mobilized despite police repression. In recent months, no less than five such demonstrations were repressed with the goal of criminalizing the struggle for women’s rights.
Question: Why Cancun?
Liliana: Cancún, with its white sandy beaches bathed by the Caribbean Sea and its idyllic climate, attracts many foreign tourists. It is also a strategic location for drug trafficking to the United States. As a territory that is disputed between the Colombian and Mexican cartels, it generates extreme violence and social decay. Cancún has become the capital of human trafficking, where women and children are forced into prostitution. Criminal groups control the local police.
Question: What is the root cause of this violence?
Liliana: Poverty. The precarious situation caused by the policies of “free trade,” privatization, and deregulation has created the breeding ground for the development of organized crime. The last 30 years have seen the flourishing of the drug, prostitution, and arms-trafficking industries. One of the most brutal expressions of this situation is the “femicides.”
The mass killings of women began on the northern border [with the United States –Tr. Note], in the city of Ciudad Juarez, where hundreds of working-class women and girls were “disappeared.” Women working in the maquiladora industry were especially targeted. Their bodies have been found in mass graves along the border. The drug, pornography, and prostitution industries have treated these women as “disposable goods,” with the complicity of the Mexican State.
The spread of these killings coincided with the advent in 1994 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), in whose name governments dismantled economic and social rights, subjecting the country to the dictates of U.S. transnational corporations. This trade agreement cannot be dissociated from the measures of “migratory security” with the United States, which equip the Mexican army and at the same time supply the cartels with arms to maintain a permanent war zone in Mexico.
The signing of the new United States-Mexico-Canada “free trade” treaty will only aggravate this state of affairs. The new “Migration Pact,” moreover, obliges the Mexican government to block immigration from Central America. This will throw thousands of migrant women and children into the hands of the drug traffickers and their human trafficking.
Question: How do women workers oppose this situation?
Liliana: In recent years, the women’s movement has grown considerably. But it is necessary to go beyond bourgeois “gender” demands, because the origin of violence does not only come from “machismo” but from the capitalist machine. Violence against women cannot be fought without fighting for a dignified life, a real wage, access to education, and healthcare — and it is the working class that must take the lead in this fight.
A step forward in this direction is the call issued by the New Workers Central (NCT) union federation and the Political Organization of the Workers and People (OPT), for the working class as a class to demonstrate on November 25, the day against violence against women. The demands include:
– an immediate halt to government repression!
– an immediate halt to the precariousness and violence imposed on women!
– for the right to abortion!
These are demands that complement the demands against the murder of women and for justice to prevail.
(Interview conducted on November 14 by J.C. Vargas)