Edmunda Adela Martínez Velázquez was 43 years old. This attorney from Veracruz was heading out on Saturday, October 24 to visit her daughter in the city of León, Guanajuato. On the way he stopped in the small municipality of San Nicolás de Buenos Aires, in the State of Puebla. There she was accused by residents of wanting to kidnap a child along with another man, Arturo Martínez Morales, 46. Without proof or foundation, psychosis broke out. Some neighbors in the area tied her to a post, beat her and caused her death from a head injury. In this central state, lynchings are not unusual.
On the night of October 22, Edmunda entered a store and was accused of wanting to rob a child with the help of Arturo Martínez. Both were tied to a post surrounded by dozens of people who yelled, beat them and held lighters at their faces in a threatening way. The inhabitants of the municipality overwhelmed them, insisting that they confess where the children were, according to the images that circulated on social networks. Arturo died on that post because of the blows that the mob gave him. Edmunda was rescued by elements of the National Guard, but died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, according to the local Veracruz newspaper. The Orizaba World.
The governor of Puebla, Miguel Barbosa Huerta, confirmed both deaths at the hands of residents of the town of Emilio Portes Gil, a town with fewer than 3,000 inhabitants. “Unfortunately, far away places like this, the police have a hard time getting there, they face a lot of problems to solve things,” he said at a press conference. The Puebla Attorney General’s Office is investigating the events. Edmunda’s relatives cry out for justice. “There is no minor, there is no complaint, and the human rights of these people were violated by not initiating a corresponding process for the alleged illicit,” they demanded before the media.
Days before the tragic event, an old hoax from 2016 circulated on Facebook that contains a photo of a man and a woman with a sign that says: “Caution with this couple, let’s take care of our children.” Neither was Edmunda or Arturo. The image was shared virally in a few days by more than 19,000 people from Guatemala, Honduras and Mexican states such as Michoacán. It is unknown if any of these users contributed to the news reaching the municipality of the incident, but psychosis and misinformation have had fatal consequences in other cases of lynching. Facebook has refused to respond to this newspaper about whether the publication was shared in Puebla. For specialist psychologist Fernando Blanco, the consequences of fake news can result in fatal outcomes: “If people are completely convinced that the rumor is true, they will act based on those beliefs regardless of their veracity ”.
In this State, other rumors have prompted popular execution processes that have resulted in nine murders so far this year. Studies link the phenomenon to mistrust in institutions, since only 7% of crimes end with a sentence in Mexico. As a result, there are violent popular reactions, which in some cases are intertwined with old rural traditions of community justice. The spark can be a simple accusation, a lie, or an unsubstantiated rumor. In 2020, with social media hoaxes at its peak, concern is growing.
Without names, or context, or evidence, hoaxes like those that have precipitated this event only incite hatred and violence: “Kill those garbage dogs”, “you have to look for them” or “kill them” are the comments that are read in the publication. The Civil Guard in Spain had already located this information four years ago and denied it. The middle Political Animal he recalled again that it was false information within days of its publication. However, the note had already been shared by tens of thousands of people just 10 days before the lynching in Puebla. On October 22, two days before the event, he reappeared without Facebook’s fake news warning on another account. EL PAÍS has requested information from this social network to find out if its massive dissemination reached users residing in Puebla. “We do not share personal information of users. What you see in the publication is what people have decided to share under their privacy decisions, ”was the response.
Fernando Blanco, a specialist in behavioral psychology, warns that small and isolated populations like Emilio Portes Gil are more vulnerable to fake news due to the feeling of belonging. “Highly cohesive groups tend to share beliefs and not allow them to be changed from the outside. I imagine that this could have played a relevant role in the event [de Puebla] because it is easy for all the people to come together and act in the same way in the face of a supposed common threat ”, he explains. In addition, the message of the hoax points directly to the hateful emotions of the neighbors who feel threatened. “It seems to me that in this case it works well and goes viral due to a very marked emotional component. There are two emotions that contribute to false material being shared on the internet: fear and anger. Here are the two combined, “he says.