Isable Claudina – Justicia

Missing Women’s Act

Emma Gómez 

In Guatemala, about 5 women disappear every day. The disappearance of women is strongly linked to some type of gender violence. 

Three years ago, an immediate search mechanism for missing women was implemented, Isabel-Claudina, a mechanism based on the Missing Women’s Law that was issued in 2016. The Isabel-Claudina Alert arises from the cases of disappearance of María Isabel Veliz Franco and Claudina Velásquez, who were located lifeless with signs of violence.

The Isabel-Claudina search mechanism, is a strategy to mobilize personnel from about 10 State institutions for their immediate location. However, to date they are still activated. 

Reports are received through the 1572 number, which are forwarded to the Missing Women’s Unit where alerts are activated, a bulletin is prepared and letters are sent to different institutions such as the General Directorate of Migration, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Civil Police (PNC) so that the search can begin. 

The departments where the most disappearances were registered last year were; Guatemala; 712, Quetzaltenango; 113 and Escuintla; 105. At the country level, 2017 alerts of missing women were activated, of which 218 are still missing, according to statistics from the MP in the section of the Women’s Prosecutor’s Office. 

The agony of not knowing where they are

The circumstances for missing women are different, from the place where they live, the language and knowing the search process, but most of them flee because of their violent environment. 

The families who have filed missing persons reports live through an ordeal because of the uncertainty of knowing the whereabouts of their family member. 

Miriam Vásquez, who experienced firsthand the disappearance of one of her daughters, recounted the anguished moments she went through not knowing anything about her whereabouts. “You can’t eat in peace, think about what happened to her, where she is, with whom… But God helped me to locate her, now she is fine. She lives far away from here, she managed to survive her partner’s aggressions”, she affirmed. 

Few cases are like this one, since most women have no choice and must return to their aggressor’s house, where they are once again victims of aggression or even, in the worst cases, victims of femicide.

For women’s organizations it is important for this mechanism to be effective and for women to find a safe space, but they regret that violence is being normalized and no quick action is being taken to locate the women. 

A recent event that has dismayed the population of Totonicapán is the death of Zoila Marina Tzoc Yax. She had been missing since January 27th of this year. A week before the Isabel-Claudina alert was activated, however, her body was found burned in an abandoned house in Llanos de Urbina, municipality of Cantel, Quetzaltenango, a week later. 

Women’s organizations ask that this search mechanism be effective in order to guarantee the safety of all women, in addition, they raise their voices for the cessation of gender violenc