By Madeleine Wattenbarger
Rest of Worlds
On the evening of October 9, 2013, 50-year-old elementary school teacher Laura Ramírez was run over by a car and killed on Avenida Dr. José María Vertiz near downtown Mexico City. The vehicle fled the scene.
Authorities contacted Ramírez’s only close family member: her daughter, Veronica, then a 22-year-old student. They asked her to come to the prosecutor’s office to identify her mother’s body and give a statement. Veronica arrived around 10 p.m. that night, accompanied by an uncle and a handful of friends. She had no idea how the process worked — that, for instance, she was entitled to legal representation and counseling. Through her shock and grief, however, Veronica had the presence of mind to realize that there were security cameras at the intersection where her mother had been killed.
Mexico City is home to an enormous urban surveillance system, the Centro de Comando, Control, Cómputo, Comunicaciones y Contacto Ciudadano, otherwise known as the C5. Because the hit-and-run had occurred on a major road, the system’s cameras were in place to capture it. “There were at least four along the path the car took,” she remembers. She immediately mentioned this to the officials. Thanks to the footage, she hoped, the police would at least be able to identify the car, track down the driver and catch her mother’s killer. An officer responded that given the gravity of the crime, the footage would automatically be set aside. Veronica pushed: Did she need to do anything to secure the videos? The officer assured her that it was all part of official protocol: The police would request the evidence and add it to the investigation file.
As Veronica stood outside the office between interviews, a man who identified himself as a legal aide for the prosecutor’s office approached her and asked if they could speak privately. Veronica found the request strange, but her friends encouraged her to go, and she followed the man into a private office. He asked her to repeat her account of the incident, which he took down with a brown marker on sheets of scrap paper. “There are two things you need to do,” he told her. “You’re going to need the videos, and you have to take them to the morgue. For both of those things, I’m going to charge you 4,000 pesos (roughly $200).” The demand caught Veronica by surprise. She argued, but he gave her an ultimatum: The recordings, he pointed out, were erased once a week, and they could easily vanish. “Either they’ll get lost, or you’ll give me the money.”
Picture: Genesis12 (talk) (Uploads), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons