Musician Commits Suicide After MeToo Accusation
A Mexican rock star was found dead Monday after tweeting that he planned to kill himself in a “radical declaration of innocence” after being accused of sexual harassment by the country’s #MeToo movement.
Armando Vega Gil, 63, the bassist for veteran rock band Botellita de Jerez (Little Bottle of Sherry), died early Monday, the group said on Twitter. A prosecution source confirmed Vega had been found dead at his Mexico City home, speaking on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to discuss the investigation.
Vega’s death poured new fuel on a fiery debate over #MeToo in Mexico. The movement has triggered a flood of sexual assault accusations against journalists, academics, writers and others in the cultural sphere in recent weeks.
Vega posted a note on Twitter shortly before his death saying he was taking his own life in reaction to an anonymous accusation that he sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl more than a decade ago.
The accusation was made the previous night on the Twitter account @MeTooMusicaMX, part of Mexico’s nascent but increasingly powerful #MeToo movement.
“I categorically deny this accusation,” tweeted Vega, who was also an award-winning poet and writer.
He wrote that he feared the accusation would end his career, and that he would not be able to defend himself on social media, where “anything I say will be used against me.”
He added that he wanted to spare his eight-year-old son from “suffering the effects of this false accusation against me.”
“I must clarify that my death is not a confession of guilt. On the contrary, it is a radical declaration of innocence,” he said.
– Debate over anonymous accusers –
Vega was a founding member of Botellita de Jerez, a band formed in the 1980s that fused rock with traditional Mexican sounds and slang.
His accuser said he befriended her some 13 years ago, when she was a 13-year-old aspiring musician and he was 50.
She said he invited her to his home and made a series of unwanted sexual advances, including telling her he wanted to teach her to kiss.
She ultimately severed ties with him.
“I’m sure I’m not the only one. It terrifies me to know that other people probably weren’t as lucky as me and fell into his perverse trap,” she wrote.
The #MeToo movement gained little traction in Mexico when it burst onto the international scene in 2017 with a series of sexual assault accusations against powerful Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
But in recent weeks, the movement has made major waves in the worlds of Mexican music, journalism, publishing and universities.
The list of #MeToo Mexico profiles on Twitter also includes accounts where photographers, writers, journalists, creative professionals and academics can accuse powerful figures in their fields of sexual harassment and assault.
The ability to do so anonymously has caused a raging debate.
Opponents say anyone with access to Twitter can make potentially false accusations capable of destroying someone’s career and even life.
Advocates say victims have little choice in a country where machismo runs deep, accusers often face hateful backlash and the justice system rarely produces convictions.
– #MeToo and suicides –
Vega’s death is not the first time the #MeToo movement has been linked to the suicide of someone accused.
Other cases include prominent Swedish theater director Benny Fredriksson, who took his own life in March 2018 after being accused of sexual misconduct and bullying.
His widow, the opera singer Anne Sofie von Otter, said he was the victim of “character assassination” that drove him into a deep depression.
And Hollywood producer Jill Messick took her own life in February 2018 after being accused of enabling Weinstein’s aggressive behavior, including arranging a meeting where he allegedly raped actress Rose McGowan.
Messick’s family said she had battled depression for years, but had recently felt “victimized” by inaccurate reports about her role in the affair.