Things That Matter

Indigenous Guatemalan Woman Freed After Spending 7 Years Imprisoned in Mexico With No Trial

Indigenous, Guatemala-born Juana Alonzo Santizo was finally freed after being tortured and wrongfully imprisoned without trial in Mexico for a startling seven years.

Alonzo Santizo, 35, now explains she was tortured and coerced to sign a confession for kidnapping, even with no “consistent evidence against her,” per Netzai Sandoval, head of Mexico’s federal public defenders’ office.

†Additionally, the confession she signed was in Spanish — a language she didn’t speak at the time.

As reported by Aljazeera, the Mayan Chuj woman migrated from her Guatemalan village San Mateo Ixtatán to Reynosa, Mexico, back in 2014 in the hopes of crossing the border into Texas. However, she was stopped in Mexico by immigration officials, and accused of kidnapping. Alonzo Santizo, who only spoke the Chuj language at the time, did not understand the charges against her. In fact, they were only translated for her this year. 

While the court now ruled there was no real evidence against her, the decision came seven years too late. As Sandoval explains, Alonzo Santizo’s treatment is due to her being “a woman, she is an Indigenous person, she is a migrant, she is poor, and she didn’t speak Spanish.”

While Alonzo Santizo has finally been released and arrived back in Guatemala on Sunday, her happiness about being back in her homeland is bittersweet.

The woman was greeted by Guatemalan Foreign Minister Mario Bucaro at the Guatemala City airport, and quickly “collapsed” into her father and uncle’s arms. 

In a press conference, the woman cried while explaining that it had been “eight years” without seeing her family.

Still, she said, “I am now free and I am very happy with my family,” while thanking Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and support groups who helped her gain her freedom. 

Alonzo Santizo awaited a conviction for seven years in “pre-trial detention,” even without substantial evidence for her detainment. She said, “I am an immigrant, I am not a kidnapper… This happened to me because there was never a translator… That is why everyone took advantage of me.”

Now, she still manages to be thankful: “Right now, thank God, I am free, I am happy.” 

Meanwhile, her uncle Pedro Alonzo says his niece’s crime “was being unable to speak Spanish.” He asks, “Who is going to pay for that scar?”

As soon as Alonzo Santizo landed in the Guatemala City airport, her family helped her change out of her clothing and into traditional Indigenous garments. Now armed with the opportunity to speak out, the former wrongfully imprisoned woman explains to the world: “We are not stones, we are not plastic things.”

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