The rape accusations have created significant divisions in the society. The Institutional Revolutionary Party in Mexico
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has stuck by the side of a presidential contender who stands accused of sexual harassment. The case will be deciding if the president's assurances of freedom and justice for everyone will be held.
Basilia Castañeda, a Mexican-American refugee, was so devoted to the president of Mexico that she formed the first chapter of his political party in her town and campaigned alongside the president's son during the election.
To sum up, the victim of the suspected abuse she suffered when she was just 17 was chosen by the state governor's party to run for the governor's seat in her state, Guerrero.
At least one other woman has accused the nominee, Félix Salgado Macedonio, of rape. The media also confirmed that another woman accused him of sexual harassment in 2007.
However, Mr. Salgado has had months of support from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has defended the candidate by saying that the allegations are inspired by politics.
President López Obrador's sponsorship of Mr. Salgado is undermining the ruling party, which could undermine Mr. López Obrador's popularity and threaten his desired reform of Mexican society.
The president has attracted increasing criticism before Mr. Salgado's appointment that he has ignored, and even dismissed, the effects of violence against women.
On Tuesday, at a press conference, López Obrador once again put the blame for the controversy surrounding Salgado on the political opposition, asserting that it is a tragedy that the feminist movement is being used in such ways.
When asked about Mr. Salgado last month, Mr. López Obrador became incensed. He said, “Ya chole!” meaning “that's enough.”
Mr. López Obrador won the presidency in 2018 by a landslide, pledging a “fourth transformation” to offer a more democratic Mexico, which included more rights for women. He portrayed his presidency as a momentous period in history that would have profound long-term effects on the country.
Nonetheless, some of our allies are worried that Mr. López Obrador may be ignoring a transformational moment in Mexican politics and society: a growing feminist wave that is calling for a major government response to widespread violence against women.
11 women die per day in Mexico, and others have compared the president's defense of Mr. Salgado — and the party's ability to support him in the gubernatorial election — to the nation's appreciation of domestic violence overall.
“If Salgado becomes governor, sexual harassment against women will be normalized and legitimized,” said Paty Olamendi, one of Castañeda's attorneys.
A spokeswoman for the president had no comment to make.
Additionally, José Luis Gallegos, who is representing Mr. Salgado, denied to make any further comment. He told the media in an interview that the claims of a woman in 2018 who made them to state prosecutors were "false" and part of a "dirty war" to keep his client from running for governor. According to a Facebook post from November, Mr. Salgado claimed that he was “very involved in” fully investigating any accusation levied against him.
In reaction to the uproar, a select number of the president's most loyal followers, including the president's secretary general and a senator, have requested that the president withdraw Mr. Salgado from the ticket. Prior to becoming the ambassador to the United States, a staunch political party loyalist, the former Mexican ambassador to Washington tweeted, “rapists and criminals have no room in society.” The last time she discussed her own encounters of misogyny in cabinet meetings was when she was the minister of the interior.
At the same time, it was reported that the ruling party's election commission had already agreed to conduct an internal poll to determine who could be on its gubernatorial campaign ticket, but had not excluded Mr. Salgado from running.
When it comes to politics, “We do have untouchables, and it just so happens that the untouchables are men,” said Congresswoman Lorena Villavicencio of Morena, the National Rebirth Movement, known as Morena.
Her friends in the party have asked her to be discreet about the situation.
Ms. Villavicencio said that a division exists between the party and the women's movement. “We're talking about a campaign that is really critical, which is transformative, and which results in substantial change.”
Protests in the capital broke out last year after the rape and two killings of women, including a 7-year-old girl who was disemboweled and found in a trash bag. After the protests, Mr. López Obrador shrugged aside the demonstrators as part of a political game. President Trump went on to say, without any evidence, that 90% of all calls alleging domestic violence were bogus.
A feminist protester, Yolitzin Jaimes, said she was assaulted by Mr. López Obrador supporters last month while demonstrating outside of an event where he was speaking. Many women in the world claim that the transition of the nation is ongoing.
Ms. Jaimes disagreed, adding, “No longer.”
Morena's nominee, Mr. López Obrador, found women's rights a core tenet of the campaign. Party leaders made the pledge to establish a new accord with Mexicans that ended elitism and now concentrated on supporting the oppressed, especially women and the young.
Mr. López Obrador appointed women to half of his cabinet, including the interior minister, who occupies the second-most powerful government position.
Ms. Castañeda told the committee about the assurances that motivated her to open the first Morena branch in San Luis de la Loma, in the state of Guerrero, years before Mr. Salgado joined the party. Among the violent states in Mexico, the state is home to opium plants that provide the raw material for heroin. The coastline spans all the way to the Pacific Ocean, and it includes popular tourist destinations like Acapulco.
Ms. Castañeda, who has previously accused Mr. Salgado of sexual harassment, claims she's been involved in politics for some time. In 1998, when she was 17, she reported that she and her boyfriend had travelled to Acapulco, where they had arranged to visit a rising political star: Mr. Salgado.
When Mr. Salgado and Ms. Castañeda were both members of the Party of the Democratic Movement, their boyfriend was also a member. Ms. Castañeda was unable to locate her lover, so she asked a taxi driver to take her to Mr. Salgado's home, where she wanted to reach him.
Ms. Castañeda remarked that she was shocked by the grandeur of Mr. Salgado's residence. She claimed that he offered to help her get home.
Instead, Mr. Salgado had her place on a sofa, she says, and had sex with her.
In an interview, Ms. Castañeda said, “He hit me like an animal.” Afterwards, he pulled up his trousers, reached into his wallet, and produced a 100-peso note.
Ms. Castañeda was scared for her safety, and she explained why she never went to the police. It was two years later, and depression was welling up, that she agreed to go to the prosecutor's office to file an official investigation.
However, the employee in the office convinced her to rethink, as Mr. Salgado was a very influential man. Ms. Castañeda revealed that she had given up until this year, when Mr. Salgado announced his candidacy for governor.
When Mr. Salgado first joined Morena in 2017, he made fun of a concern about his background when he was questioned by a newspaper.
I have more weaknesses than strengths. He answered, “I'm not racing to be a cardinal.” My favored word for describing myself is a womanizer, a partygoer, a gambler, and a drunkard.
Shortly afterwards, news reports in Mexico reported that explosive charges had been made: Mr. Salgado was falsely convicted in 2018 of raping an anonymous woman when she was an employee at La Jornada Guerrero, a newspaper he owned. In 2007, the attorney general of Guerrero launched an investigation on the woman's allegations, leading to the release of a file by the AG of Guerrero that year, which was given to The New York Times.
The employee recorded that she was called to Mr. Salgado's house in 2016, and that he offered her a drink that tasted strange. She said her clothes were put on wrongly and Mr. Salgado was staring down at her when she woke up.
“Do you feel better now, little girl?” he demanded of her, as the records indicate.
She claimed that she left, but it is known that Mr. Salgado tricked her back to his house by sending pornographic images of her unconscious and nude. Upon her return, he started to beat and rape her, she said.
According to the investigation file opened by the attorney general's office, Mr. Salgado considered the woman's warning funny, and he said he was too strong to be taken down by the police.
In an interview, Xavier Oléa, who was the state's attorney general at the time, said that the woman in question sent Mr. Salgado photographs of the attack and text messages in which he threatened to kill her if she went to the police. Mr. Oléa said he agreed that there was ample evidence to press charges.
The governor of Guerrero requested Guerrero to drop the lawsuit, according to Mr. Oléa, who repeated what he has said to Mexican media outlets. The governor's spokeswoman did not say anything about it.
He advised me not to move ahead with it; otherwise, the new president would strike him for his jugular, according to Mr. Oléa.
A spokeswoman for the president had no comment to make.
The Guerrero Attorney General's office reported in a news release that the probe into the woman's allegations was “under revision.” It was claimed that Mr. Oléa was “solely responsible for assessing and organizing investigations.”
Ms. Castañeda claimed that she drafted her own declaration to be filed with the Guerrero Attorney General's Office, just prior to Mr. Salgado becoming the Guerrero gubernatorial nominee. She claimed that she had already sent the complaints to the president's party, who affirmed in an internal document accessed by The Times that they had received them. Ms. Castañeda is being represented by Mr. Oléa, the former attorney general, who is in private practice as of this date.
The new attorney general's office told Ms. Castañeda in a letter that the statute of limitations has run out, which is according to the letter she sent to The Times. A appeal for comment went unanswered by the attorney general's office.
Ms. Castañeda said, “Many years have gone, but I am still here.” “It really hurts."