Anne Marie Mackler, FNS Editor
A Cd. Juárez businessman and police authorities have been recently blamed for the murders of women that plague the city. Legislators, former police officials and activists have pointed fingers in the same direction saying that Alejandro Máynez carries guilt in this matter and is being protected by a network of police who are orchestrating what gets investigated and what doesn’t.
According to Judith Galarza Campos, coordinator of the Independent Committee of Human Rights, the line of investigation against Alejandro Máynez, the Cd. Juárez business owner, who is a suspect in some of the murders, has not been pursued by either the current PRI administration of Governor Patricio Martínez or the former PAN administration of Francisco Barrio. She also says that the criminal investigation into the crimes against women in Cd. Juárez has experienced serious deficiencies because Martínez’s administration is determined to solve only those crimes occurring since his term began in October of 1998. Campos says that the current state administration spends all of its time focused on recent murders and ignoring the numerous others.
La Reforma reported that Alejandro Máynez, and his cousin Melchor Máynez, were the “real assassins.” According to this June 20 report, Francisco Minjárez, the director of the special anti-kidnaping group of the State Police (PJECH) and Antonio Navarrete, a commander for the municipal police of Cd. Juárez, have provided protection to these alleged assassins in the series of murders that has occurred in Cd. Juárez since 1993.
Victor Valenzuela, a former “godmother” of the PJECH, said that he has information about these Máynez cousins and the web of protection they have been provided. This information was presented to authorities in 1996, however, there has been no follow up investigation according to Valenzuela.
Additionally, according to La Reforma, both Nahún Najera Castro, former assistant attorney general of Chihuahua, and Martín Salvador Arce, former municipal police officer, support these allegations.
These claims of an official cover up also surfaced recently in conjunction with the attempt on the life of Irene Blanco’s son.
Sharif’s Attorney Is Threatened
Irene Blanco, defense attorney for Abdel Latif Sharif Sharif, had received threatening phone calls in mid-May, telling her she would “be hit where it hurt the most” by someone allegedly angry at her for defending Sharif. On May 21, Irene’s son Eduardo Rivas Blanco, was shot three times while driving through Cd. Juárez. He survived the attack, however the entire family was shaken and Irene Blanco requested police protection.
Mayor Gustavo Elizondo announced on May 24 that the municipal police would provide protection for Eduardo Blanco Rivas during his stay at the Specialized Medical Center.
This incident received a variety of responses from the authorities, and from Irene Blanco herself. Blanco says that she will reveal her own hypothesis about the shooting, but not immediately as she remains fearful. Nevertheless, she made it clear that she believes there was a connection between her work for Sharif and the attempt on her son’s life and she accused the authorities of being involved. She also believes security authorities at the state level have corrupted the murder investigations in order to cover up for the true assassins.
However, shortly after the crime, the state assistant attorney general discarded the claim that this attack had anything to do with Blanco’s relationship with Sharif. Alejandro Astudillo Sánchez initially said that the attack was possibly an attempted robbery or drug related, then announced that it must have been a “simple assault.” Suly Ponce, special investigator for the crimes against women, agreed with his assessment.
State Attorney General Arturo González Rascón flatly denied any connection between the authorities and the attack on Blanco’s son. “It is obvious that no state authority would provoke an incident of this nature.”
But two federal legislators expressed viewpoints in opposition to those of the security authorities. Alma Vucovich and Carlos Camacho went so far as to publicly demand the resignation of State Attorney General González Rascón because of his “ineptitude” and “lack of respect for the community.”
The president of the Commission of Gender Equality, Congresswoman Vucovich, and secretary of the Border Affairs, Carlos Camacho, stated in a press conference on May 26 that the attack on attorney Blanco’s son, and other recent crimes, have not been appropriately addressed by state authorities.
“We are worried by the direction the attorney general of the north zone has taken in these investigations,” Camacho said.
Vucovich wanted to know “Why, when a mother’s son is attacked, can the special investigator Suly Ponce accuse this woman, Irene Blanco, of using the crime to make herself a martyr and using it to her own benefit?”
Vucovich also expressed that there is a great fear in the city because of these crimes and the authorities response to them. She also believes that behind it all there is a “mafia that is dominating the authorities.”
The Summer Months Brings More Victims
As the murder accusations continue to fly back and forth between high level corruption and the bus drivers, the answer to who killed over 187 women in Cd. Juárez has not been found, and the border city again saw innocent women fall prey to violent crimes. Not since the attempted murder of “”Nancy”,” the maquila worker raped, strangled and left for dead allegedly by a maquila bus driver, has Cd. Juárez had reports of murdered women on the front pages. This month, however, three murder victims and two shooting victims made the headlines.
On June 1, 60 year-old Maria Santos Ramirez was raped and murdered by her stepson Jose Luis Madrigal Portillo, 32, in Colonia México. FNS sources reported that Madrigal confessed to killing his stepmother while under the influence of inhalants and because she had insulted his mother.
On June 6, Irene Arellano Castillo, 70, was found murdered by multiple stab wounds, in her home in Colonia Ampliacion Aeropuerto. Her home had been robbed, and José Alejandro Hernández, 19, has been charged with the murder after one of Castillo’s televisions was found in his possession. He denied the crime, and that he had been using drugs or that he had a prior arrest, however, the special task force for crimes against women say he is an addict and has a criminal record.
On June 7, a 20 year-old woman, Elizabeth Flores Sánchez, was found beaten to death, apparently with a table, and her body was found in a development near Porvenir. She was found fully dressed so it is not believed that her murder was a sexual crime. Later reports showed the cause of death was suffocation. Her brother-in-law, Javier Silva Moreno, 35, a maquila worker whose identification card had been found at the scene, was charged with the crime. He denied the charges, and claims that she was using his identification card to snort cocaine.
Two woman were attacked in their home by a neighbor in the colonia Lucio Blanco on June 10. Magdalena Concha Reyes, 29 and María de Jesús Terán, 23 were both admitted to the Social General Hospital No. 23 in critical condition. A neighbor of the young women, Rubén Rodríguez Guardado has been charged with the attempted murders. Rodríguez entered their home when they were asleep.
And finally, the body of a young woman found murdered over a year ago, on April 19, 1998, near the Pemex soccer field, has been identified. The victim, García Cordero, 17, disappeared on May 16, 1997. The identification was made through dental records, and according to Ponce, they’re 90 percent certain the identification is correct.
Sentencing Received For A Six Year Old Murder
On a related note, a couple was recently sentenced to nine years in the murder and burning of Verónica Huitrón Quezada in 1993. Maria Consuelo Rodriguez de Walker and Gabriel Garcia Ramirez, “El Coreano,” were sentenced in the third district court by Alberto Vazquez Quintero. Rodriguez de Walker watched her spouse “El Coreano,” stab the victim to death and then assisted her partner initially hide, and then transport and burn the body. Huitrón was a boarder of the couple’s, and apparently a lovers’ triangle brought on a fight which resulted in her death.
Bus Drivers Demand Immunity, Prosecution Loses Key Witnesses
Over the last several weeks the cases of the bus drivers have evolved as the court battle begins and evidence and allegations are being presented in hearings. Jesús Manuel Guardado Marquez “El Tolteca,” Bernardo Hernández Fernández “El Samber,” Victor Moreno “El Narco,” and Agustín Toribio Castillo “El Kiani” have been charged with the rape and murders of Brenda Patricia Méndez, Maria Eugenia Mendoza Arias, Irma Angelica Rosales Lozano, Celia Guadalupe Gomez de la Cruz, and Garcia Cordero, whose identification has not been verified completely, and one other woman whose identification remains uncertain.
After many postponements, the bus drivers’ hearings began officially. However, Ceballos Chávez’s hearing for immunity from the murder charges was deferred José Gaspar in late May.
Guardado Márquez also requested protection from the court early in June, again defending his innocence in the rape and attempted murder of “”Nancy”.”
The bus drivers, in their defense, have also recently stated that they had only been acquaintances with each other until they were charged by authorities to have worked together in a murder ring lead by Abdul Latif Sharif Sharif. This goes against the conspiracy theory presented by the task force on crimes against women.
The prosecution in “El Tolteca’s” case had hoped to use both Guardado’s sister-in-law and wife as witnesses against him. However, neither woman could be found to receive the subpoenas.
The de la Rosa sisters had both made previous statements that would help build the prosecution’s case. His wife, María del Carmen Flores de la Rosa, had said that “If he is guilty he should be punished so he is no longer able to threaten her life or that of their children.” She stated that he had been drinking heavily, was addicted to cocaine and was receiving large amounts of money and drugs from Victor Moreno “El Narco.” According to de la Rosa, Guardado had left the house often with a knife, and returned with a bloody knife but told her to mind her own business.
Guardado’s sister-in-law said that he had admitted to her that he had killed three women and run over a fourth with a bus.
Because of the court’s inability to serve papers, other means were going to be used to notify them of the request that they appear in court. Suly Ponce asked the presiding judge for more time to present the wife and sister in law of Guardado, however, on June 16, the prosecutor gave up trying to find the relatives of “El Tolteca” as witnesses.
Guardado maintains his story that he had stopped his bus en route on March 17 when “Nancy” was the only remaining passenger. They talked, and after a while she grew angry and hit him, and he hit her back “but not very hard.” Then he left her in the desert but returned later for her and she was gone.
Claudia Soraya Estala Banda, a medical examiner for the attorney general’s office, says that “Nancy” was examined, and it is “very possible that she was both vaginally and anally raped by a penis or another object.”
In other events, Abdel Latif Sharif Sharif will be brought to the border to face his alleged accomplices. He is accused of masterminding the ring of bus driver murderers in order to make it appear that the series of murders of women that he is accused of hadn’t stopped since his incarceration. He allegedly believed that the continued crimes would assist his defense against the murder charges he faces. He has been in the prison in Chihuahua since early April when the bus drivers were first taken to the Center for Adult Rehabilitation (CERESO) in Cd. Juárez.
Also, the attorney for Victor Moreno, “El Narco,” has brought forth a document proving that his client was in the U.S. at the same time that he has been accused of planning and participating in the murders of women in Cd. Juárez.
Two district attorneys that heard the confessions of the bus drivers appeared in court to say that they had received statements from the suspects legally. The suspects have accused the police of beating and threatening them into making the confessions they had originally made. However, the attorneys deny these charges.
An additional step in this judicial process was the inspection of “El Gaspy’s” home and another residence where supposedly the underwear taken from the victims had been hidden, however, to this date there have been no reports of any allegations evolving from these searches. The courts also ordered that the busses involved be searched.
According to Suly Ponce, as of late June the prosecution will have 25 pieces of evidence to be used against the suspects.
The Protest Against The Authorities’ Inaction Continues
Approximately 50 representatives of NGOs, and members of federal congress from both the PAN and the PRD appeared the morning of June 19 at the north zone’s justice building to protest the murders of women in Cd. Juárez and how the governmental and legal authorities have responded to the nearly 200 crimes.
However, the protest was not met with wide support. State Attorney General Guillermo Marques, published a statement indicating that the protest was immoral and politically motivated. The state functionary believes that the protesters assume and repeat the same political party messages that for months have brought respect to security. He also stated that crime has decreased in Ciudad Juárez, especially the murders of women. “These acts of immoral political promotion are an attempt to sabotage the community work by way of divisiveness and scandalous tactics and they are reprehensible.” He requested that the city not be taken as a political hostage and instead the protesters should provide proposals and solutions that will allow the advancement of the fight against violence.
Federal congress representative, Carlos Camacho, PAN, invited the citizens “to make a city wide effort to find the answers.” There were many factors possibly effecting the low turnout of the meeting, according to Camacho. “It can be attributed to the fear, the heat, and the exhaustion of those who have been fighting this problem for the last five years.” But the legislator also noted that “It is easier to stay on the outside of the problem than it is to get involved.” Camacho planned to meet with the governor and state attorney general to demand that solutions be found.
Camacho also stated that he does not believe the crimes are solved. The confessions, according to the congressman, of the current suspect (the bus drivers) were a result of torture from the security forces.
Alma Vucovich, federal PRI congresswoman explained that the protest was in response to the fact that “Ciudad Juárez continues to feel like it is a no man’s land, that the truth is being hidden.” The citizens are not able, according to Vucovich, to tolerate this any longer. She said her appearance was evidence of her support of the work of the NGOs.
The participants in the event hung signs that read “Cd. Juárez is an emergency zone. Stop the feminicide.”
Nancy’s Settlement Still On Hold
Although there had been movement toward an agreement between “”Nancy”,” her family and Motores Eléctricos, it now appears that the efforts toward bringing the former employee some compensation for the injury caused to her while on the way home form work have been halted.
“Nancy” had been working for Motores Eléctricos when she survived the beating, rape and strangulation by the bus driver on her way home on March 17. With the widely spread news of her attack, and survival, her employer learned that she had been hired using a false identification, one that indicated she was older than she was, and they fired her immediately keeping her from receiving any of the employment benefits available to someone involved in a work-related injury.
This, according to El Diario, happened independently of the charges that were made against Guardado and the other bus drivers.
At the time the NGOs called for the economic support from her employer as well as from the state government so that “Nancy” would be able to continue her education. The state promised this type of support.
Nancy’s family hired an attorney to assist in making a demand for a settlement from her employer, and the company originally did offer additional compensation, however, after three months, the family still has no certainty that the two parties have reached an agreement.
U.S. Experts Offer Assistance Again
And finally, once again a group of psychological crime experts will visit Ciudad Juárez to help the state legal authorities with the crimes against women.
A group of five criminal specialist from California State University, Fresno, will work with the state police over the next two months in the investigations of the crimes against women.
The group is lead by Dr. Candice Scrapec, who has been an advisor for the criminal specialists at the center in Quantico, Virginia. While working with the Chihuahua officials, this group hopes to assist in investigations, provide technical assistance and give employee orientations. The group also plans to teach the latest techniques and use of sophisticated investigative technology to the state police cadettes.
Sources: El Diario, El Paso Times, La Reforma del Norte, El Norte