LA PAZ – Dozens of people turned out on Thursday in the central city of Cochabamba to express support for an Indian female councilor who was beaten by a male councilor and the mayor of a town in the region and who also tried to rape her.
About 50 women from municipal and provincial political associations of both the governing MAS party and the opposition marched to demand punishment for the accused, who are officials for the town of Tapacari, 67 kilometers (42 miles) from Cochabamba.
MAS Councilor Erenia Villca Nina reported to the police that she was attacked on May 5 by councilor Ignacio Mendoza and town Mayor Severino Vargas, who are also with MAS.
After recovering from the attack and thanks to financial help from other women involved in politics to pay her medical bills, Villca was released from the hospital on Wednesday and her case has caused a commotion and general indignation in Bolivia.
“We female assembly members, deputies and senators have issued a pronouncement demanding action by the Public Ministry so that once and for all a case will be opened” on the matter, Cochabamba councilor and vice president of the Bolivian Municipalities Association, Rocio Molina, told EFE on Thursday.
Villca said in her complaint that Mendoza asked her to get out of her car and on a riverbank began to physically attack her, hitting her with his fists, kneeing her and trying to sexually abuse her, pulling off her clothing by force.
Vargas arrived on the scene and, instead of trying to stop the violence, he called for the attack to continue, and Villca and another female councilor, who was also at the site, were raped.
“They hit me. They kicked me, stepped on me with their shoes. He continued kicking me. I didn’t stop, I defended myself,” Villca, who is a Quechua Indian, told the media while she was in the hospital.
One of the accused, Mendoza, categorically rejected Villca’s account, telling reporters that he was the target of insults and tried to stop a fight between her and another woman.
Molina said that she and Villca’s other supporters are seeking to provide her with “the necessary guarantees so that she can return to her community and continue in her post as councilor.”
Currently, Villca is staying at a shelter in Cochabamba with her family, where she is being provided with psychological help and treatment for a heart problem.
Molina said that the prosecutor’s office has not acted yet despite the fact that, in addition to Villca’s complaint, other complaints were presented by organizations such as the Bolivian Councilors Association.
Senate president Jose Alberto Gonzales, also with MAS, told the media that “those who violate women’s rights will not, under any circumstances, be protected.”
Since 2012, Bolivia has had a law on the books forbidding harassment and violence against women in politics as a result of the number of such cases that have occurred.