Betrayed: The Assassination of Digna Ochoa


Despite a note beside her body addressed to other "sons-of-bitch" human rights lawyers, the Mexican government ruled Digna Ochoa's violent death "probable suicide" and slammed the case shut in July 2003. But journalist Linda Diebel, a three-time recipient of the Amnesty International Media Award, will not let Ochoa's story die. Here is her chilling account of a cold-blooded murder and a cover-up that reaches into the top echelons of the Mexican government. Tracing Ochoa's extraordinary rise from the streets to ...
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Despite a note beside her body addressed to other "sons-of-bitch" human rights lawyers, the Mexican government ruled Digna Ochoa's violent death "probable suicide" and slammed the case shut in July 2003. But journalist Linda Diebel, a three-time recipient of the Amnesty International Media Award, will not let Ochoa's story die. Here is her chilling account of a cold-blooded murder and a cover-up that reaches into the top echelons of the Mexican government. Tracing Ochoa's extraordinary rise from the streets to become a champion of Mexico's most persecuted peoples, Diebel uncovers a byzantine plot surrounding Ochoa's death. From the corridors of presidential power, to the Vatican, to the jungles inhabited by Zapatistan rebels, Betrayed is a riveting exposé, a depiction of friendship and betrayal, a love story, and a testament to the Mexican people's continuing fight for truth and dignity.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When, in 2001, the body of Mexican human rights lawyer Digna Ochoa was found shot in the leg and head, covered in starch and arranged beside a written death threat, her friends and colleagues had no doubt she had been murdered. Why, then, did the Mexican government pronounce Ochoa a suicide? Organized around this essential question, journalist Diebel's account of Ochoa's life and death assumes the appealing momentum of a whodunit, although there isn't much of a mystery: Ochoa's high-profile cases, especially on behalf of poor indigenous environmentalists, shamed the Mexican government and threatened its economic interests. For years Ochoa and her colleagues had been harassed, followed and even kidnapped, yet the authorities turned a blind eye-or, Diebel suggests, even colluded in the crimes. Ultimately, it is not the identity of the killer but the extent of the deceit around Ochoa's death that is the real center of Diebel's heartfelt story. And if Diebel overwhelms the reader with facts to support a foregone conclusion, her extensive interviews succeed in creating such a vivid picture of Ochoa-a former nun who won both a MacArthur "Genius" Award and Amnesty's Enduring Spirit Award-that the reader is as indignant as Diebel to learn the government portrays her as a narcissistic, moderately intelligent schizophrenic. In Diebel's fresh take, Ochoa is twice a victim: first of murder, then of character assassination. (Apr. 7) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Digna Ochoa, a Mexican human rights lawyer, died of a gunshot wound to the back of her head on October 19, 2001. The investigation into her death was reopened in 2005 after initially being ruled a suicide. Diebel (winner of the Amnesty International Media Award) writes that there is no doubt that Ochoa was murdered for defending those tortured and harassed by the Mexican army. She also believes that this murder is indicative of both the impunity with which the army operates and President Vicente Fox's inability to rein in its alliance with powerful landowners and their illegal drug and business interests. Diebel's book draws on interviews with Ochoa's colleagues and family, her own reports for the Toronto Star, and official documents from the murder investigation, including a bizarre "psychological" profile of Ochoa that Diebel perfectly situates within her complex first-person narrative of betrayal. Progressing with impassioned precision and forcing upon the reader a hunger for justice, this work is a more extensive work on the life of Ochoa than Kerry Kennedy Cuomo's chapter on her in Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-Jim Hahn, Harper Coll. Lib., Palatine, IL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
First-rate reportage of a political murder that "wasn't supposed to happen in the Mexico of Vicente Fox."Digna Ochoa y Placido, a 37-year-old attorney, had been feted by Hollywood stars and East Coast liberals for her determined work in exposing violations of civil rights on the part of the Mexican government and military and the paramilitary death and narcotics-trafficking squads that worked alongside and for them. Diebel, onetime Mexico City correspondent for the Toronto Star, reveals that Ochoa had personal as well as political reasons for her interest in exposing their crimes: She had been kidnapped and raped in Veracruz, only days after discovering a blacklist of union organizers and political activists in the office of the state attorney general. But she was a committed democrat, too, and her investigations evidently hit home, for Ochoa was murdered, shot point-blank in the head, in October 2001. The job was professional. She had been tracked and killed away from her home, and her murderer knew just who she was, leaving behind a note threatening her fellow human-rights activists: "You sons of bitches, if you keep it up we're going to screw another one of you too." The new government of President Vicente Fox, friend of George Bush and ostensible reformer and outside-the-system type, did nothing. Fox refused even to acknowledge that a crime had taken place. His attorney general-a former senior officer in the military-did not act; in time, the official explanation was that Ochoa died by suicide, never mind the forensic evidence to the contrary. Diebel patiently explores all these cover-ups and deceptions. Her conclusions will not surprise anyone who knows Mexico, where the military isthe strongest branch of organized crime, but they will astonish readers unaware that our neighbor to the south is far from a democracy. A carefully constructed, righteously angry investigation.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786718764
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 1/28/2007
  • Pages: 512
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Linda Diebel, multi-award-winning Canadian journalist, was Washington bureau chief for the Toronto Star and a long-time correspondent in Latin America, based in Mexico City. She is a winner of Canada’s National Newspaper Award and three-time recipient of the Amnesty International Media Award for reports from Mexico, Haiti, and Columbia. She lives in Toronto.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2006

    Justice for Digna

    'In Mexico, to defend human rights is to risk your life.' -Digna Ochoa. And that's exactly what she did. Ironcially, she risked her life by giving a voice to her own people in her own country, unprotected by her own government, and consequently betrayed. Yet many a government official vowed that this case would not go unsolved (staple phrase in Mexico when a crime is committed). Almost 2 years later, the best they could come up with was the most ridiculous, asinine and insulting verdict I've ever read. This verdict was just as riddled with holes as the other victims mentioned in this book. I commend Linda Diebel on her arduous, and at times dangerous, investigative work to produce this book. It was through it that holes such as careless police work of not properly securing the crime scene, removal of the body only after all medical readings are taken, no possible gun powder residue, and something as simple as the chain of custody of the evidence were either discovered or brought out from under the rug. The case of Digna Ochoa is marred and disgraced with incompetence, contradictions, lies, cover up, and ultimately betrayal things that go against Digna herself and what she stood for. Mexican officials are known to make dissenters disappear (via the army, police, security forces, and others). That explains why testimonies in Digna's case (one of many) were changed and documents mysteriously went missing. If a person who stands in their (government) way can easily be dealt with, then how hard can it be to get rid of a piece of paper? I strongly recommend this book. While the white sandy beaches of Mexico are quite real, so is the political corruption, injustices, and atrocities of torturing and killing of innocent people.

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