Mexico women protest violence in skeletal Day of Dead march

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Wearing black clothing and skeletal face paint, dozens of women marched in downtown Mexico City on Wednesday to commemorate the growing number of women murdered and pressure the government to put an end to what they say is the rampant impunity fueling it.

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About 200 protesters held photos of murdered sisters, daughters and friends while chanting “not one more” in a procession that was a somber contrast to festive events elsewhere in the capital on the eve of Day of the Dead.

Homicides of women have risen by nearly a quarter on average under President Enrique Pena Nieto compared with the previous administration, and Mexico’s total murder tally is on track to hit the highest level in its modern history this year.

“As women we face a lot of danger,” said Claudia Correa, whose 21 year-old daughter, was found dead near her home in Veracruz state last month with stab wounds in the chest and neck, after speaking one evening with her ex-boyfriend.

Correa said the ex-boyfriend has since disappeared, and an investigation is underway to find him.

“The authorities don’t do anything to find these killers and the killers realize that they are taking so long that they have a chance to get away. And they are going to continue doing so if we allow them to,” said Correa, donning a photo of her deceased daughter with the caption “Justice”.

The march, planned by about 50 activists, was scheduled to be mirrored on Wednesday evening in several states that have registered high levels of violence against women.

“Each case is a tale of horror,” said organizer Ana Elena Contreras, who is pushing the government to do more to end the murder, rape and abuse of women, in a country where thousands of violent crimes go unpunished every year.

Contreras said as long as perpetrators are not brought to book, women will continue to face grave risks in Mexico, which scored worse than the most violent countries of Central America in the 2017 Global Impunity Index, published in August.

That included Honduras and El Salvador, which have been two of the most murderous countries in the world in the past decade.

The problem of violence against women has become so serious in Mexico that the federal penal code now defines certain types of murders as “femicide”.

Still, measuring the phenomenon of femicides is difficult due to a lack of specific data, said Francisco Rivas, director general of the National Citizen Observatory (ONC), a civil group monitoring justice and security in Mexico.

“There’s a part of society that still doesn’t consider this issue as something serious; they minimize it,” said Rivas.

In the first four years of Pena Nieto’s government, Mexico registered some 2,543 homicides of women on average, up from 2,051 in the term of his predecessor Felipe Calderon, according to data published by Mexico’s national statistics agency.

The 2,735 homicides of women last year was the second-highest figure of any year since 1990, and more than double the number recorded a decade ago.

Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Michael Perry