Who Was Victoria Salazar? Woman's Death at Tulum Police Hands Evokes George Floyd

The death of a woman after a police officer knelt on her back in the Mexican resort town of Tulum on Saturday has drawn comparisons with American George Floyd, who died in police custody after officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck.

The woman, identified as 36-year-old Salvadoran national Victoria Esperanza Salazar Arriaza, was arrested by police officers after authorities received a call reporting an intoxicated woman wandering on a highway, according to Mexican news outlets.

In a video of the incident shared on social media, a female officer arresting Salazar appears to be kneeling on her back and applying the pressure of her body weight. Salazar can be heard crying out in pain, which does not prompt the officer to shift her position. Three other police officers could be seen in the video: two resting on a police car and another pacing nearby.

Different footage shows law enforcement officials carrying a visibly limp Salazar and placing her in the back of a pick-up truck. Mexican media reported Salazar lost consciousness during the incident and died in its aftermath.


Victoria was a Salvadoran migrant who was murdered by the police in Tulum, Mexico today. After detaining her, the police held her face down with their knee on her back and despite her yells of pain and that she couldn’t breathe, they refused to release her pic.twitter.com/z3VDpOnNKX

— The CentAm Collective (@centamcollectiv) March 29, 2021

In a statement released Monday that did not name Salazar, the office of the attorney general of Quintana Roo—the Mexican state where Tulum is located—said the prosecutor of Mexico's public ministry pursued criminal action against four municipal police officers "for their probable participation in events indicated by law as femicide." The officers, a woman and three men, will be admitted to a detention center.

According to the statement, forensic experts "concluded that a fracture was identified in the upper part of the spine caused by the rupture of the first and second vertebrae, which caused the loss of the victim's life."

"The police technique of body control applied and the level of force used was carried out disproportionately, immoderately and with a high risk to life, since it was not in accordance with the resistance of the victim, which caused a deceleration with rotation of the neck, thereby violating the provisions of the National Law on the use of force," the statement read.

The statement's timing coincides with the trial of Derek Chauvin over the death of George Floyd, which began today.

In previous statements, the Quintana Roo attorney general's office said it was investigating Salazar's death as a homicide.

El Salvador's foreign affairs ministry identified Salazar as a Salvadoran national from the department of Sonsonate who "resides regularly in Mexico." The ministry said she was "assassinated" by Tulum police, adding it was in communication with Mexican authorities with regards to "pertinent investigations" so as to "apply the full weight of the law."

El Salvador President Nayib Bukele confirmed reports Salazar was a mother by tweeting: "We will take care of the maintenance and studies of Victoria's two daughters and of everything they need. We only ask for justice. Let the full weight of the law fall on those who did this."

Mexican President Andres Lopez Obrador on Monday said Salazar's death "fills us with sadness, pain and shame," vowing punishment for the perpetrators.

Outrage over Salazar's death sparked the social media hashtag #JusticiaParaVictoria, which translates to "Justice for Victoria." The incident also reopened old wounds over the issue of femicide in Mexico.

Mexico experienced 939 murders in 2020 that were classified as femicides, a stark increase from 411 in 2015, according to the Ministry of Security and Civilian Protection (Mexico) and the National Public Security System.

Police car patrols Tulum, Mexico
A police car patrols the streets of Tulum on April 27, 2020 in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Medios y Media/Getty Images