Sunday, August 1

Femicides in Mexico: The two hours with the police that ended the life of the doctor Beatriz Hernández


It was 4.30 pm on Wednesday, June 9, and Beatriz Hernández was alive. The young woman, 29 years old and resident of Surgery at the General Hospital of Pachuca, in Hidalgo, was crossing the small municipality of Progreso de Obregón, in the south of the State. He was going to spend a few days with his family in Presas. Her grandmother was waiting for her with food on the table. The trunk was loaded with bags and medical supplies. At 4:40 p.m., the doctor had a multiple collision with three other vehicles on the town’s main road. There were no injuries. In 30 minutes the police arrived, forcibly subdued Hernández and arrested her. At 5:45 p.m., the doctor entered the municipal headquarters and was held in a cell. An hour later, Beatriz Hernández was dead.

In the initial hearing of the case, which lasted 21 hours, Judge Rosa María López Aguilar considered the omissions and negligence in the arrest and detention of the young woman to be proven. Seven agents have been linked to a judicial process for the crime of wrongful death. Those arrested, three women and four men who carried out police and administrative tasks, will have to await the trial from jail. In addition, they face another accusation for breach of their responsibility as public servants for the treatment given to the doctor. The Prosecutor’s Office, which initially investigated the death as femicide, has also reclassified the crime to homicide.

In a case still hazy and full of questions, the autopsy establishes mechanical asphyxia by incomplete suspension as the cause of death. But it also identifies another 24 injuries on the young woman’s body, some on the face, breasts, genital area and legs, according to the Luz Elba Ayala family legal advisor.

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The version offered by the municipal government and the defense maintains that the doctor, intoxicated, committed suicide by hanging herself “with a piece of cloth” after “arguing strongly” with her father in the police galleys. The family rejects this version. “My sister had many dreams, many illusions,” says Aldo Hernández. The young woman was in her first year of specialty, she was going to start a private practice and they had just given her the plans of a house that she wanted to build in her town. “Someone who invested so much in an education and in his life, to achieve his goals, does not take his life like that.”

The issue of the doctor, as they call it in the town, has outraged some neighbors fed up with the violence. They say that crimes happen in Progreso without anything happening. The protests against the municipal president, Armando Mera Olguín, of the Labor Party, ended with damage to the façade of the City Hall. There are still burned benches on the street in the main square, the posters hanging: “She did not die, the policemen killed her.” With a dozen witnesses, relatives and lawyers, EL PAÍS reconstructs the last moments of the young woman.

16.40: time of the accident

Tito Estrada avenue is at the entrance of the municipality. It is wide, bordered by pastures, small palm trees and walls with electoral posters. Here is the headquarters of the Red Cross, the hall for town events or the Joselito Huerta charro canvas that welcomes Progreso. Here, where there are still piled up broken pieces of her car, Beatriz Hernández had the accident. Her brother says that the young woman had left working in the Pachuca hospital, about 70 kilometers away, had passed by his house, grabbed some clothes, her dog Gala and had started on the way. The toxicological reports have proven that the young woman had consumed alcohol in the hours before her death.

He first collided with a truck, a blow that made him lose control and end up hitting a red car in front and this, with another smaller truck. Beatriz’s gray Seat was on the sidewalk, parallel to the other three crashed vehicles. The impact was so loud that the neighbors quickly left their houses to help. As of this moment, the versions of the six witnesses of the accident consulted by this newspaper coincide. All of them ask to keep their names anonymous due to the climate of tension that the case has caused and for fear of reprisals from the Government.

Remains of Beatriz Hernández's car in the place where she had the accident in Progreso de Obregón.
Remains of Beatriz Hernández’s car in the place where she had the accident in Progreso de Obregón. Alejandra Rajal

Hernández is trapped by the airbag and the driver of one of the trucks helps her out of the vehicle. Limping from his leg that was crushed and in a state of shock, the doctor guarantees those involved that their insurance will take care of the damages. “I answer for all the blows, he said,” recalls a witness. Later, he checks that there are no injuries and tries to check the boy who was traveling with his mother and grandmother in the other car that was hit. The woman does not allow it and rebukes her for having caused the accident. “I was yelling at him very ugly: you’re crazy, you’re drunk,” says a woman who witnessed what happened.

While the medical services and the police arrive, this woman – who has not been identified – enters the doctor’s car and grabs the documents from her purse. “He told her that he would give them back until the damages were paid, because the lady had no insurance. The doctor asked him to talk, ”says another man. In full discussion between the two agents appear.

17.10: the police arrive

A police patrol and two motorcycles go to the scene of the accident. “She comes in a drunken state, I’m bringing a baby, stop her,” the woman shouted, according to witnesses. To the astonishment of the neighbors, a police officer approaches Hernández, makes a key on her back and immobilizes her. “From how stretched and folded back she had it, she got up to her little player [camisa de manga corta]”, They detail. At no time does Hernández receive medical attention. The autopsy report determined that the doctor suffered a severe internal injury to the liver, probably as a result of the car accident, according to the legalistic doctor provided by the defense.

Moment in which Dr. Beatriz Hernández is forcibly detained.
Moment in which Dr. Beatriz Hernández is forcibly detained.

Between the shouts of the woman in the car (“Take her away, take her away!”), And the opposition of the neighbors, the police try to subdue Hernández, who begs for help, and put her in the police vehicle. When forcing her, an agent hits her with the frame of the car and the young woman begins to bleed from her mouth. Once inside the patrol car, a witness claims that the police had her by the neck. “It really bothered me that they were treating her like this. So I got her out of the car. I grabbed her by the hands and said: ‘Relax, nothing is going to happen to you,’ he says now excitedly.

According to the videos and images to which this newspaper has had access, the same agent forcibly puts the doctor back into the vehicle and says: “I’m just doing my job.”

17.45: Beatriz Hernández enters the command

While the neighbors remove the objects from the doctor’s car and protect their white dog – “if not between the tow truck and the police, they take everything” – Hernández is directed to the Municipal Palace. In a journey of just five minutes, the doctor crosses this humble town of low houses and passes in front of the clinic that 90 minutes later would certify her death.

The command, located in a shelter of the City Council, is in the main square of the municipality where a cartel vindicates the doctors who fought against the coronavirus under the slogan “Heroes of the homeland.” Dr. Hernández was on the front lines of covid during the toughest months of the pandemic. “My daughter raffled her to save lives, she did not deserve to be treated as a criminal,” says Cirilo Hernández.

The young woman enters the police headquarters at 5:45 p.m. They give her the first medical check-up in the hall of the premises and she is held in the galleys. With a Facebook message, the neighbors get in touch with the family. At 6.15 p.m., Cirilo manages to see his daughter. She is scared and asks him to please get her out of there, but she doesn’t look hit. “I told him: I see how I get you out, but I get you out of here,” says the father, a clinical laboratory technician by profession. He leaves to finish the formalities on the civil responsibility of the accident and to try to fix the insurance of the vehicles.

Cirilo Hernández, father of Dr. Beatriz Hernández, was the last person to see her alive on June 9.
Cirilo Hernández, father of Dr. Beatriz Hernández, was the last person to see her alive on June 9. Alejandra Rajal

From then on, the images presented at the hearing show the young woman inside the cell maneuvering with a piece of white cloth measuring about 38 by 45 centimeters. In some images referred to as not very clear, the defense argues that Hernández puts that cloth around his neck. In no instant is it suspended. After that moment and until the entry of members of civil protection 30 minutes later, the images from the cameras are classified as blind: in that period of time, what happens inside the cell is not appreciated. One of the experts explains that this “displacement” may be due to the switching off and on of the cameras. At about 6:45 p.m., civil protection entered and, despite the resistance of the agents, also Cirilo Hernández. He comes to see his daughter lying on the floor of the galley. He was no longer breathing.

At 7:16 p.m., the Humana Clinic – located a few minutes from the main square – certifies Beatriz’s death with an electrocution device. “He arrived without vital signs. The pupils were fully dilated, the heart no longer beat ”, says Dr. Cresenciano Lozano. “He arrived with hypoxia, a lack of oxygenation for at least 20 minutes. The fingers were already purple.

The audience and the questions

Aldo Hernández recalls in detail the three phone calls he had with his father that Wednesday, June 9. In the first they find out about the accident and this young man, a graduate of Tourism and Business Administration, shares with his father the papers of the insurance policy. He runs out of his home in Mexico City toward Hidalgo. In the second, her father informs her that Beatriz is in custody, but does not show signs of violence. In the third, about 15 minutes later, he tells her that he is not breathing. “What do you mean not breathing? Did they kill her? ”, This young man, aged 31, recounted in shock, outside the Public Ministry of Mixquihuala.

At the initial hearing, the judge considers it proven that Hernández was not provided the necessary medical attention after an accident. Thus, she has considered negligent that the agents detained her instead of transferring her to a medical center; that the review at the command be carried out in the corridor without privacy and incompletely; that after warning signs, such as lack of oxygenation, she was not referred to a hospital; not to check how the cell was and if there were objects with which she could hurt herself, and not to monitor her.

Furthermore, after this first hearing, questions remain unresolved. When and how did the other twenty injuries occur – including those that prove sexual violence – on the body of Beatriz Hernández? How did the white cloth appear in the cell? How, if so, could she try to hang herself without being seen by the officers guarding her? And what happened in the 30 minutes that are not identified in the recordings?

Hernández shows the photos of the trips with his little sister, he says that he had just given her the furniture for his new medical office, that he did not have time to give it to her, and ends up asking: “My sister did not kill, she did not steal, she just had an accident. . From there she left alive and arrived alive at the command. How can someone die in there?

The National Guard guards the Municipal Palace of Progreso de Obregón, set on fire on Friday in protest of the death of Beatriz Hernández.
The National Guard guards the Municipal Palace of Progreso de Obregón, set on fire on Friday in protest of the death of Beatriz Hernández.Alejandra Rajal

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