Outrage after refugee dies from fractured spine under police custody in Tulum

A woman protesting the death of Victoria Esperanza Salazar Arriaza holds a sign reading “Who protects us from the police.” Photo: Courtesy
A woman protesting the death of Victoria Esperanza Salazar Arriaza holds a sign reading “Who protects us from the police.” Photo: Courtesy

A woman from El Salvador lost her life last weekend in a violent altercation with the police in Tulum. 

Video of the incident shows the victim laying on the floor while a female police officer kneels on her neck. 

Police officers detained the woman on the grounds of a public disturbance. After a struggle that coroners confirm broke her back, the woman died at the scene and was then loaded into a police vehicle. 

“It is clear from video evidence that the techniques employed by officers to restrain the victim were applied with excessive and disproportionate force,” said the forensics specialist for the case, Óscar Montes de Oca.

The case has garnered international attention for its brutality and similarities to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Victoria Esperanza Salazar Arriaza had hoped to emigrate to the United States from El Salvador but decided to seek asylum in Mexico. 

She has been working at a hotel as a member of the cleaning staff for a number of years. 

The victim left behind two daughters, 15 and 16, who had also been residing in Mexico but will now be returning to El Salvador, according to their uncle René Olivares.

The president of El Salvador expressed his sadness at the news but said that he was sure that the police officers responsible for Victoria’s death would see swift justice. 

For his part, Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced that charges have already been brought against the officers involved and that there will be no impunity for their heinous actions. 

Human rights organizations in Mexico and abroad have characterized the case as a clear example of the problem Mexico faces when it comes to police brutality and femicide. 

Users on social media have used the hashtag #JusticiaParaVictoria to bring attention to the case and demand reform.

Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway.