Mexican mother of autistic boy dies after being set on fire

GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- A Mexican activist and mother of an autistic child has died after being set on fire, authorities said, sparking protests, condemnation and demands for justice on Thursday.

People and relatives of activist Luz Raquel Padilla, who was set on fire by strangers, take part in a demonstration to demand justice during his wake in Zapopan, Mexico, on July 21, 2022. Padilla, a defender of the rights of people with disabilities, died after unknown individuals set her on fire in the state of Jalisco, the regional prosecutor's office reported Wednesday. ULISES RUIZ / AFP

Luz Raquel Padilla, 35, was doused in alcohol by three men and a woman and set alight in a park in Zapopan in Jalisco state, prosecutor Luis Joaquin Mendez said, citing witnesses.

Padilla, part of the caregivers' rights group "I take care of Mexico," died in a hospital on Tuesday after suffering burns on 90 percent of her body, according to authorities.

The case is being investigated as a possible femicide, prosecutors said.

One of Padilla's neighbors, Sergio Ismael "N," was arrested for causing injuries, making threats and crimes against a person's dignity in connection with previous incidents, Mendez said.

He has not been charged with femicide for now, and according to witnesses was not present at the time of Saturday's attack, prosecutors said.

Padilla had accused the man in May of threats and writing graffiti with messages including "I'm going to burn you alive" on the walls of the building where they lived.

"How long am I going to have to live in fear that something could happen to me and my family," she wrote.

Padilla had also complained on social media about her neighbor's behavior, such as listening to loud music, which she said had affected her son's health.

Years previously, she had also been a victim of abuse by her ex-partner.

- 'Justice for Luz' -

Dozens of women demonstrated in front of the Zapopan police station on Thursday, accusing the authorities of inaction and indifference.

"Justice for Luz and justice for her son!" demanded Guadalupe Ortega, 62, a member of the Insurgent Women's Network, a group of caregivers for people with special needs.

Mexican authorities needed to be "more sensitive" to the plight of women like Padilla and their grieving relatives, she added.

"Yesterday everyone was devastated by the pain of losing Luz and the governor (of Jalisco) was celebrating a birthday," Ortega said.

Friends and family, carrying flowers and purple balloons, accompanied Padilla's coffin during a wake at which the priest appealed for an end to violence against women.

In Mexico, an average of 10 women are murdered daily, according to official figures.

Many of these cases bear the hallmarks of gender-based violence.

"We condemn the murder of #care activist Luz Raquel Padilla in #Jalisco, as well as any form of violence against people who defend women's human rights and fight against gender-based violence," UN Women Mexico wrote on Twitter.

Padilla's death came even though she was living under protection measures.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the case reflected a "loss of values" that "was promoted in the neoliberal period," referring to the time before he took office.

"It's a dehumanizing model that produces hatred, grudges and frustration," he added.