Mexico's decades-long rash of femicide has seen many high-profile disappearances and murders over the years. One young woman's recent death, and her father's activism, have brought new attention and outrage to the crisis, Courthouse News reports. The disappearance of 18-year-old Debanhi Escobar in early April, after a night out with friends, and the discovery of her body two weeks later in a suburb of Monterrey has rallied critics of the government who are fed up with official inaction or ineptitude.
Soon after Escobar's disappearance, her father, Mario Escobar, took over her Instagram account. One of the photos he posted became a haunting emblem for the gender violence crisis in Mexico. Taken by the taxi driver who is the last person known to have seen her alive, the photo shows Debanhi alone in the middle of the night on a stretch of road so dangerous it has come to be known as “the highway of the dead.” The account now has over 625,000 followers. Escobar’s social media activism for his daughter is one reason Debanhi’s case has garnered so much attention, according to Daniela Villegas, a researcher at the Center for Gender Research and Studies at Mexico’s National Autonomous University. Another is the failure of Nuevo León Governor Samuel García to fulfill his promise to combat violence against women. “If you mess with a woman, you mess with all of Nuevo León,” he promised on the campaign trail. “People have ‘messed with’ so many women, and he hasn’t done anything about it,” said Villegas. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has also been the target of criticism for not doing enough to combat the problem. “The federal government has very little interest in dealing with the problem of violence against women,” said Silvia Chuc of the women’s rights group Gobernanza MX. Her state of Quintana Roo has registered the highest rate of violence against women in the country since 2021. “We see from our tracking at Gobernanza MX that levels of violence against women are rising across the country, despite the federal government’s discourse that it isn’t happening,” she said. On Tuesday, the president announced he would address the problem every Thursday in his morning press conference. The first installment of his new segment titled “Zero Impunity” on Thursday featured deputy security secretary Ricardo Mejía Berdeja listing off arrests of suspects accused of violence against women and journalists.