Mass marches to condemn horrific violence against women swept Latin America, after a series of brutal murders stoked outrage over a long-smoldering problem in the region. Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Buenos Aires on Friday, the latest in a series of massive protests organized by a burgeoning movement against domestic violence and a culture of machismo. Marches were also held in Chile, Uruguay, Colombia, Venezuela and Guatemala, with another planned Saturday in Peru.
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“If any of you are going through what I was, please go to a loved one, a neighbor, anyone,” said an online message from Chilean victim Nabila Riffo, 28, who lost both eyes when her ex-boyfriend attacked her in May.
“Please, don’t be intimidated or threatened by any man,” she said. The demos were held on the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The Argentine protesters called for further action, including a worldwide “women’s strike” on March 8, International Women’s Day.
Activists in Germany, Italy, Russia, Israel, South Korea and Mexico have joined the strike plan, organizers said. Some 200 women have been killed by their partners or ex-partners so far this year in Argentina, fueling widespread condemnation. In a nod to the protest movement, Argentine President Mauricio Macri met Friday with victims’ families.
But he himself has come in for criticism from activists. In a 2014 interview, he defended men who make catcalls at women on the street and said there was nothing wrong with telling a woman, “Nice ass.”
A poll published Friday found 97 percent of women in Argentina have been victims of harassment multiple times. Latin America has been shocked by a recent string of gruesome murders of women and girls: a 10-year-old Chilean suffocated with a plastic bag; a 16-year-old Argentine raped and impaled on a spike; a 22-year-old Mexican strangled to death.
Activists condemn not only the killings but what they call a culture that values women less than men. In Buenos Aires, protester Dora Machicado, 42, told AFP equality for women would translate to less violence.
“Economic independence frees us from the violence of machismo,” she said.