Today the murder trial for Luz Marina finally came to an end after three weeks of proceedings. Juan Bautista Silva (in photo below) was convicted of "frustrated homicide" since Luz Marina didn't die until two weeks after the attack. The prosecutor had hoped for a "frustrated murder" conviction, where Silva would have faced up to 30 years in prison. The sentence of "frustrated homicide" means that Juan Bautista Silva will only serve between 4-7 years in prison.
Silva entered his house on Feb. 6th, locked the doors, dragged his wife into the back room of their house. He sprayed her eyes with pepper spray to disorient her before stabbing her multiple times. Luz Marina's brother, Fidel, had to break into the house and intervened as Silva took out a gun, intending to shoot Luz Marina to end her life. She died on February 19th in the hospital. The above photo is from the crime scene. The photos of Luz Marina are too graphic to post here.
The family of Luz Marina and members of the community are outraged at the ruling and plan to appeal. Fidel is going on a hunger strike tomorrow in protest. We hope that the sentence will be changed to reflect the gravity of this crime, and send a clear message that violence against women will not be tolerated. If such an act had been committed against a stranger, Silva would have easily gotten the maximum sentence of 30 years. How can brutally murdering one's wife be considered a lesser offense?
Killed by her Husband
February 19, 2008
On February 6, 2008, Luz Marina Ruiz Uriarte, resident of Batahola Norte, was brutally stabbed by her husband of 22 years, Juan Bautista Silva. Luz Marina died on February 19. On the night of February 6, Bautista entered the residence where he and Luz Marina lived, locking the doors behind him as he took her into the back patio of the house. After spraying Luz Marina's eyes with pepper spray, he attacked her with a knife. Neighbors called her family, and Fidel Ernesto Ruiz, her brother, arrived on the scene. He kicked in the front gate and was able to subdue Bautista, who also attacked Fidel. Because Fidel was wearing a jacket, he survived with minor wounds. Luz Marina escaped through the front of the house and collapsed when she got to her truck parked outside. She was taken to Hospital Lenin Fonseca where she was treated. Because of the severity of her frontal wounds, doctors did not notice the three stab wounds in her back until a week later. She died at 4:20am on February 19. She is survived by her 20-year-old daughter, who was attending dance class at the time of the incident. Juan Bautista Silva is an ex State Security official who was trained in intelligence in the USSR in the 80s and is a Sandanista community leader. In December, 2007, he attempted to kill his wife, who called the police, but they failed to arrest Bautista. After the February 6th attack, he was declared mentally unstable and sent to the psychiatric hospital.
No More Femicides
Luz Marina's death was not a result of her husband's psychotic break, it was a femicide. According to Ruth Matamoros, director of the Red de Mujeres Contra la Violencia, Bautista's behavior was consistent with the profile of an abuser. It is a common pattern, she noted, in cases of violence against women, that when the man feels he has lost control over his victim, he resorts to the ultimate form of control by taking her life. Violence against women is endemic in many parts of the world, including the United States. A woman was killed by her husband in my suburban hometown of Yardley, Pennsylvania last year. As a member of the Sexual Assault Network of Boston College, I saw that rape and other forms of violence against women, even at a top U.S. university, is not uncommon. My freshman year roomate was punched in the face by her ex-boyfriend in the middle of campus one day. I note these examples only the emphasize that while case of Luz Marina can seem foreign to the realities some of you may be living in the U.S. or other places, even quiet suburban and rural communities in the U.S. can be saturated with violence against women. Abuse rarely comes to light except in the case of extreme violence, such as this one. Women who live with abusive partners often struggle for years in silence, not knowing how to escape the cycle of violence. Many women who are raped are too scared to come forward because of fear they will not be supported or that they will be told that they were responsible for what happened to them. Even at the funeral of Luz Marina, some in the crowd commented that "she got what was coming to her" because of rumors that she had had an extramarital affair. In Nicaragua, certain factors exacerbate violence against women, such as the fact that sexism is more evident here. It is more difficult for women to get an education and job, and they are paid less than men even when they hold the same position (this is true in the U.S. as well, but by a smaller margin). As in the U.S., police often do not respond to cases of interfamily violence, and they often revictimize the woman by making her retell her traumatic story over and over again or humiliate her by forcing her to recount the details of a rape, for example. Nicaragua has the advantage of having the Comisaría de la Mujer, a section of the National Police dedicated exclusively to addressing crimes against women. While the Comisarías de la Mujer have been instrumental in investigating cases of interfamily violence, most women don't know about this resource, and the Comisarías face many challenges due to inadequate funding.
Hundreds of people came to the funeral of Luz Marina to show their support of the family and grieve the loss of an incredible woman, who in addition to running an ice cream shop, collaborated with Operation Miracle, which brings brigades of Cuban doctors to perform eye operations on residents of Cuidad Sandino. Christine and I help facilitate a women's, group twice a month, and this past Saturday, we focused on the issue of interfamily violence, screening "Ya No Más," a Nicaraguan documentary on the subject. Several women from the community organized to create a petition to demand justice in the case of Luz Marina, and have been working hard this week to collect signatures. At the Mass at the Centro Cultural Batahola Norte on Sunday, Fr. Rafael denounced the killed and offered space for Fidel and other members of Luz Marina's family to share reflections. At the end of the Mass, the assembled lit candles for Luz Marina and prayed for an end to violence against women. Fidel, along with other family members and women from the community, have been meeting with Mujeres Contra la Violencia, who have pledged their support of the case. This Friday at 8pm marks 9 days after her death, and the community will gather at Luz Marina's house to remember her. On Monday at 10:00am, at the Centro Cultural Batahola Norte, there will be a press conference with the family, members from the community, and a representative from Mujeres Contra la Violencia. We are hopeful that the community will come together to demand justice in this case to send a clear message that violence against women will not be tolerated, and to give hope to women currently suffering from interfamily violence.
~Laura To read the Nuevo Diario article in Spanish click: "Líder político a juicio por asesinato y homocidio" * Information based on Nuevo Diario article, and conversations with Fidel Ruiz and Ruth Matamoros
Update 3.4.08: Batahola in Solidarity
Yesterday, March 4, a press conference was held at the Centro Cultural Batahola Norte to demand justice in the case of Luz Marina. Present were Ruth Matamoros, director of the Red de Mujeres Contra la Violencia, Sandra, also of the Red, Fidel Ruiz, Jennifer Marshall, and Fatima Urbina Barrios, CPC women's representative. The group presented the community's petition signed by people in the neighborhood to demand justice and call for an end to violence against women.
Due in part to pressure by the community, Silva last week was transfered rom the psychiatric hospital to prison after being re-evaluated by medical staff and declared sane. This marked hopeful progress in the case.
Maria Elena from the Centro de Mujeres de Acahualinca has volunteered to accompany the women's group of Batahola to run workshops on gender and interfamily violence.
On Friday at our weekly staff reflection a the Centro Cultural Batahola Norte, we watched "Ya No Mas," the Nicaraguan documentary on interfamily violence, and began planning for more ways to discuss the problem of violence with groups of youth and men from the Center as well.
The tragic murder of Luz Marina has shocked many in the community. It is also an example of of the police's failing to respond to reports of interfamily violence. Of the 23 women killed by their partners in 2007, every single one had previously reported violence to the police, who failed to respond. By seeking justice in the case of Luz Marina, the family, Batahola community, and Red de Mujeres Contra la Violencia seek to send a message to perpetrators of violence that they will be held accountable for their acts. Justice in this case will also send the message to women suffering abuse that if they report their partners, they will be taken seriously by the police and be protected.
Please check back for future updates on this case and what the Batahola community is doing to help people break the cycle of violence.