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Mexican musician Armando Vega Gil was found dead Monday after tweeting that he planned to kill himself in a ‘radical declaration of innocence’. Photo: AP

#MeToo suicide: Mexico rocker Armando Vega Gil kills himself in a ‘radical declaration of innocence’ after woman makes sexual harassment claim anonymously on Twitter

  • An anonymous woman posted a complaint on Twitter saying Armando Vega Gil had sexually harassed her when she was 13
  • Musician denied the accusation, and said he wished to spare his son from ‘suffering the effects of this false accusation against me’

A Mexican rock star was found dead 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 authorised 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 soon 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.

Vega was a founding member of Botellita de Jerez, a band formed in the 1980s that fused rock with traditional Mexican sounds and slang.

The “MeToo” movement has grown since sexual assault accusations were made against powerful Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. File photo: Reuters

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.

The letter immediately unleashed criticism of Mexico’s newly energised “MeToo” movement. The group’s Twitter account was taken down soon after news of the suicide broke.

“Let this help us remember that the justifiable complaints about harassment, machismo and violence against women should not become an irresponsible persecution,” wrote Mexico’s national educational publishing agency in a statement.

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While the MeToo account was taken down for several hours, it went back up Monday, after what the account’s administrator says was a hacking attempt.

Regarding Vega-Gil’s death, the account administrators were defiant, claiming they had contacted Vega-Gil Sunday night “to make the appropriate inquiries in the case”.

“To any of the accused and unpunished criminals who want to use this painful event to discredit the international #MeToo movement, we want to inform you that, however much you attack us, we will not be silent,” they wrote on the Twitter account.

Referring to the suicide, they wrote “It was done to defame the movement … he knew he was guilty. It was media blackmail”.

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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.

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 theatre 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 behaviour, 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 “victimised” by inaccurate reports about her role in the affair.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

If you, or someone you know, are having suicidal thoughts, help is available. For Hong Kong, dial +852 2896 0000 for The Samaritans or +852 2382 0000 for Suicide Prevention Services. In the US, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on +1 800 273 8255. For a list of other nations’ helplines, see this page.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Rocker accused of sexual abuse kills himself after tweet