A judge has ordered Mexican authorities to investigate the killings of women in the suburbs of Mexico City, reviving a sensitive issue related to a former governor who is a leading candidate in the presidential race.
Judge Jose Alvarado ruled a national, multi-government agency formed to fight violence against women should reconsider a request by activists to declare a state of alert for central Mexico State, women's rights activist Maria de la Luz Estrada said.
Human rights groups say hundreds of women have been killed or gone missing in recent years in that state, which lies next to Mexico City and is home to 13 million people.
Ms Estrada said her group has documented more than 1,000 killings of women during the six-year administration of former Governor Enrique Pena Nieto, who is a leading contender in the July 1 presidential election.
State authorities did not immediately comment on the ruling, which was issued on February 27 but not revealed until yesterday.
The issue recalled the campaign for justice waged by relatives of women killed in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, where dozens of women were tortured, raped and killed prompting a women's rights movement that garnered international attention.
"Authorities in Mexico State don't investigate and instead blame the victims for their own deaths, or in many cases say they committed suicide, without doing a proper investigation," said Ms Estrada, who co-ordinates the National Citizens Observers on Women's Killings.
Political analyst John Ackerman, of the legal research institute at Mexico's National Autonomous University, said the case could be "another stone in the shoe of Pena Nieto that he's going to have to deal with" during the campaign.
The judge's ruling was aimed at the National Agency for Prevention and Eradication of Violence Against Women, which was formed in 2007 from federal, state and local agencies to declare violence alerts and follow up with education, prosecution and prevention programs.
Twenty of 34 agency representatives voted last year against declaring an alert for Mexico State, a move that would have required authorities at all three levels of government to co-ordinate investigations of gender violence.
The agency can appeal the judge's ruling.
Mr Pena Nieto and his supporters have said Mexico State's per-capita homicide rate is no worse than in the country's other states and suggested the requests for a state of alert were politically motivated. Mr Pena Nieto could not be reached for comment.
A study by the United Nations women's organisation found the number of killings of women in Mexico State was in line with the national average and decreased between 2004 and 2009.
There were 5.43 women killed per 100,000 in 2004 and 3.66 in 2009, the study said. The national rate increased from 2.46 to 3.4 per 100,000 over the same period, it said.
Ms Estrada denied activists are zeroing in on Mexico State, saying her group has also requested alerts be declared in the states of Oaxaca, Guanajuato and Nuevo Leon.
In Nuevo Leon, a war between two rival drug cartels killed more than 2,000 people last year, including more than 300 women. In Ciudad Juarez, where 1,200 were killed in drug-related attacks, 196 women were killed in 2011.Reuse content