Anne Marie Mackler, FNS Editor
On October 5, just as government leaders were preparing to move into their newly elected positions, another woman was found dead on the outskirts of Cd. Juárez. The corpse was found near a garbage dump in the colonia of Santa Maria, at a location where murder victims have previously been found. This murder brings the total number of women murdered in Cd. Juárez to 124 since 1993, according to the National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH). However, this figure varies according to sources. Nonetheless, Esther Chávez Cano, co-founder of March 8, a women’s rights advocacy group, said in an FNS e-mail interview, “It is offensive to the families to consider the statistics (when) this degree of brutality is unknown in any other Mexican city.”
|. . . This degree of brutality is unknown in any other Mexican city. –Esther Chávez Cano|
The identity of María Eugenia Mendoza Arias, 32, was not official until October 10 when relatives identified her body, and fingerprints matched her voter’s registration card. Mendoza, last seen on October 3 on her way to a quinceañera, was reportedly raped and whipped with a hose; her face was destroyed beyond recognition with a heavy stone; her legs were run over repeatedly by a large vehicle, and her skull was crushed.
It was on Governor Martinez’ first official day in office that news of Mendoza was released, and Martínez again called for the careful and complete investigation of each of the murder cases starting from the state attorneys general office and across three levels of government. “We can’t wait another minute; (Solving these crimes) is a duty that must be carried out within the paradox immediately but carefully.”
|We can’t wait another minute, (Solving these crimes) is a duty that must be carried out within the paradox ‘immediately but carefully.’
-Governor Patricio Martínez
A new group will be formed to investigate the murders of women which will include the federal, state and local police forces. And a new director, Enrique Cocinas, was appointed in late October to lead the special office to investigate the murders of women. He will be the fourth special prosecutor that has been hired since the task force was created in Cd. Juárez last May to solve the series of assassinations victimizing women.
The importance of this high level plea for solutions resulted in a “zero tolerance” response from the new assistant attorney general, Nahúm Nájera Castro, who took office on October 5. Nájera ordered a raid on October 6 in the neighborhood where Mendoza’s body was found. Fifty men of all ages, including minors, were taken into custody for questioning.
It was believed that some of these suspects had direct ties to recent murders of women. Two gangs were targeted, one known only as The Miners (Los Mineros), and several members of both groups were sequestered in a sub office of Nájera’s. While Nájera promised that this was only the first in a series of operations directed at finally solving the series of crimes against women, family members of these suspects were demanding to know the whereabouts of their children.
Apparently, the pressure to solve these crimes from the government, NGO’s and the public, may have been too much for some police officers. On October 6, the day after the discovery of Mendoza’s body, and for the next several days, headlines reported that most of the detained men had been released, but definite suspects had been found, and that men who had witnessed Mendoza’s murder had named a third man as the perpetrator. This man was allegedly being sought.
However, almost a week later, on October 12-13, it was reported that state police were being accused of falsifying these stories in an effort to make it appear that the case was being solved. There have been no further reports of suspects, actual or created, as of the date of this publication, however, it was reported on October 19 that investigations continue, and distinct similarities between at least three of the murders are being seriously looked at involving women raped and strangled in downtown hotels.
|We don’t want a repressive situation created; it always works against those who don’t have the resources to defend their innocence. –Esther Chavez Cano|
While the non governmental organizations (NGOs) applauded the concerted effort of the new government, they fear for anyone’s human rights being violated. According to Irma Campos Madrigal, coordinator of the North Region National Forum for the Protection of Women, the zero tolerance approach is well intended however may result in the violation of the rights of delinquents or those that have nothing to do with the crime. Esther Chávez Cano, agrees and was quoted in El Diario saying, “We don’t want a repressive situation created, it always works against those who don’t have the resources to defend their innocence.” In an FNS interview, Chávez noted that “There is no political motivation to do a thorough investigation of these crimes, and there is too much corruption that can hinder the success of any investigation.”
Interestingly enough, in the midst of the chaos brought on by another murder of a woman, and the high energy of government transition week, the Universidad Autónoma Cd. Juárez sponsored the “First Conference on Women and Violence” on October 7 and 8. Issues of domestic violence and women’s rights in the work force were major focuses of the conference as well as the announcement of plans for a women’s crisis center and more day care centers in Cd. Juárez.
Mayor Gustavo Elizondo spoke at the conference and promised that the strength of his government’s plan to fight violence against women would include increased monitoring of bars, increased patrol of the colonias where murders have occurred and greater supervision of the police forces. Additionally, Elizondo promised that no official preventative campaign (regarding violence against women) would be implemented without an initial review by the NGOs.
And, finally, Sixteen on the List, a low-budget movie made in México about sixteen women murdered in Cd. Juárez, based on actual accounts was released on October 16 to received with mixed response. Guillermina González Flores, sister of a victim, said that the film caused her to re-live the pain of losing her sister. Vanessa Guzmán, lead actress, asked that mothers of victimized women “Understand that we made this movie with a lot of respect.” Guzmán says they had no intention of making this movie lucrative or sensational. She offers her deepest condolences and hopes that time will heal these wounds.
Watch for an FNS film review in November.
Source: El Paso Times, El Diario, El Norte de la Ciudad