Anne Marie Mackler, FNS Editor
The five-year long mystery crime spree that has left well over 100 women raped and murdered in Juárez since 1993 is being seriously addressed by the community, by public security on every level, and by international experts. Searches have been conducted, anti-crime crusades announced, expert analysis delivered and possible suspects investigated. And while it would seem apparent that everyone is working towards solving and stopping this series of crimes, two more women, Eréndira Ivone Ponce Hernandez, 17, and Hester Sussane Van Nierop, 18, were murdered in September, and the number of missing women continues to grow.
The Non-Governmental Organizations (ONGs) remain busy in their fight for answers to the existing crimes and prevention of any more women being murdered. On August 23, more than 150 Juárez residents, under the organization of Voices Without Echo (VSE), unsuccessfully searched three sites outside the city, hoping to find remains of five missing women, the latest statistic according to Women For Juárez. The volunteer groups, consisting of victims’ relatives, volunteers from a radio station, members of the Special Agency Investigating the Homicide of Women (FEIHM) and members of ONGs, looked in El Valle de Juárez, Lomas de Poleo, and Lote Bravo. These sites are where bodies of women have been found in the past, according to Guillermina Gonález Flores, spokesperson for VSE and sister of one of the missing women
No bodies were found during this search, however, clothing and bones were discovered, and as of late August, lab reports were being conducted. With the minimal results from the search, the ONGs are demanding that the authorities do something. “If we did not find them, then they are probably alive,” said González. A volunteer wondered, “If they are buried? We are never going to find them.”
In response to President Ernesto Zedillo’s August 28 announcement of a National Security Program’s crusade against crime and delinquency (See “Juárez Public Security Studied by INEGI”), Esther Chávez Cano, coordinator for the ONGs for Women, said, “It is urgent that public policy is generated on the border, particularly in Juárez, to keep violence from being the focus of socialization.” She urges the federal government to provide “real” mechanisms to solve the problems including economic, social and legal policies that will help prevent the acts and give assistance to the victims.
The ONG’s used the September 8 appearance of Governor Francisco Javier Barrio Terrazas, PAN, at the inauguration of the newly renovated Córdova bridge, as an opportunity to demand answers regarding the assassination of women. “We want justice, we don’t want more missing women. The current government’s term is almost up, and we want to know what they have done,” said Lorena Benavides, member of the Association of Friends and Relatives of Missing People (AFAD). According to González Flores, these cases were presented to Barrio when he first took office. El Diario did not report any response from the governor.
The ONGs continue their work and on September 8 announced their plan for another search. González Flores hopes that searches will be done every 15 days with the continued incentive of pressuring the authorities of the state to solve each of these murders.
THE LEGAL SYSTEM
The only jailed suspect in these crimes, Abdel Latif Sharif Sharif, continues to appear in the headlines. On August 28, El Diario reported that the Eighth Court of Juárez is now in charge of the criminal process against the Egyptian businessman, accused of participating in the murder of Elizabeth Castro Garcia. Initially, the judge Flor Mireya Aguilar was in charge of this case, but Sharif Sharif made a request to the State Supreme Court for another judge because he believes Mireya Aguilar was not fair. This petition was denied; however, Judge Aguilar excused herself from the case because she believes that her reputation and integrity have been falsely questioned. Sharif Sharif has been jailed since October of 1995 and has not yet received sentencing.
While ONGs are conducting searches outside the city, local police are conducting special operations within the city as a means of preventing further crimes against women and improving downtown safety. On September 3, municipal and state police officials announced an operation that would help to establish which sectors of downtown Juárez are most dangerous for women. Antonio Navarrete, chief of the Special Task Force for the Investigation of Murdered Women said that “after the downtown operation, there will be increased efforts to prevent these crimes.” He emphasized that this is one of many activities that both police forces are planning. Further actions will be implemented to minimize the risks that woman face in the downtown area, however, El Diario reports that he is unable to reveal more details at this time although he promises positive results.
Although the ONGs were not pleased with the work of Silvia Loya Miyamoto, special prosecutor for the investigation of murdered women on the border, she is proud of her track record as she prepares to leave her position in September. According to Loya Miyamoto, her office has solved 13 cases of murdered women since 1993 while still proceeding on an additional 50 cases. She regrets that the ONGs didn’t understand her job or that she was always willing to assist them. According to Guadalupe Ramírez, Independent Committee of Human Rights (CIDH), Loya Miyamoto did not provide them with information they wanted.
It was announced on September 18 that Manuel Adolfo Esparza will replace Silvia Loya Miyamoto as special prosecutor for the Investigation of Murdered Women in Juárez. This attorney says he has spent two months gathering data on the cases of murdered women. He previously worked with the Mexico’s attorney general and public ministry.
Possible answers may be available soon, to at least some of these crimes, as El Paso Police Department, El Paso County Sheriff’s Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety continue working with Mexican officials and have developed important leads. Although the information remains vague, it was reported in both El Paso Times and El Diario on September 20 that two El Paso men are being investigated as suspects in the murders of possibly dozens of women in Juárez. Psychological profiles have lead authorities to these suspects, according to El Paso’s Interim Police Chief, J.R. Grijalva. Because the investigation is in a “sensitive stage,” Grijalva can not elaborate on the details, however Manuel Esparza, a Chihuahua state prosecutor, said the two El Paso suspects are “ex-convicts and fit the profile of someone who may be involved in multiple slayings.” Not enough evidence has been found to make arrests.
The cases of well over 100 women murdered in the last five years in Juárez was presented at an international forum on criminal psychology in Liverpool, England in September. Two American experts, Doctor Julie Armstrong and Doctor Kalaghan, who learned of these crimes in the New York Times, visited Juárez and met with Ester Chávez Cano. As part of their information gathering they visited with families of victims and crime sites. They were shocked when they observed that families they visited had not only suffered the loss of daughters and sisters to violent crimes, but that they lived in such tremendous poverty.
Despite the broad efforts towards solving and stopping this series of crimes, Juárez was shocked twice in September when two more women were found murdered.
ERÉNDIRA IVONNE PONCE HERNANDEZ
A seventeen-year-old secretary at a recycling center, Eréndira Ivonne Ponce Hernandez, was found dead on August 30, north of the Casas Grandes highway. She had been tortured and murdered. Two suspects, her boyfriend and her boss, who was also a former school teacher, were questioned within days of discovering her body. Her family reported that she had been receiving obscene notes at work.
Ponce Hernandez’ family used her funeral as an opportunity to call for the end of murders of women and to warn young women to “Be careful and not to trust anybody.” Ponce Hernandez was said to be a happy girl, not much into partying, but fond of writing poetry. The following poem appeared in El Diario on September 2, and FNS has re-published it and provided an English translation provided by FNS Staff.
|Mis Días De SolTe di mi sonrisa, mis días de sol.
Te di lo que fui, pero aun así te vas,
pues que seas feliz,
te olvidarás que signifiqué para tí.
Será mejor usar una sonrisa
y fingir que no nos hemos visto antes
de que el amor llegó y volvió a volar.
No te pregunto por qué, porque ya lo sé.
Me pides que te olvide,
no puedo creer que quieras que borre de mi mente
los pocos momentos que pasamos juntos,
no puedo creer que todo este tiempo
no hay significado nada para tí,
cuando para mí, es lo mejor,
o fue lo mejor de mi vida.
¿Qué te hizo tomar esta decisión?
Creo que nunca te entenderé,
sólo quiero que sepas que no te guardo rencor,
la vida tiene que seguir por siempre,
te recordaré como un sueño
que no se pudo cumplir.
|My Sunny DaysI gave you my smile, my sunny days
I gave you all that I am, and you’re still leaving me.
Well, I wish you happiness.
You will forget how much I once meant to you.
It is best just to smile
and pretend that we never met.
Our love came and then flew away again.
I won’t ask you why, I know.
You ask me to forget you.
I can’t believe you want me to erase you
from my mind.
The few moments that we shared,
I can’t believe they mean nothing to you,
when they were the most precious moments
of my life.
Why did you do this?
Maybe I will never understand.
I just want you to know I will not begrudge you.
Life goes on forever.
Your memory is like a dream
that never came true.
HESTER SUSSANE VAN NIEROP
And finally, this month closed with another murder in this mysterious crime spree that plagues Juárez. Hester Sussane Van Nierop, a woman from Holland, traveling with her family in México, was found strangled to death in a hotel room in downtown Juárez on September 20. Her sister in Niyerte, México, was notified, as were her parents in México City. Although a possible suspect is being sought based on information from hotel employees about the man registered in that room, no one is in custody. It has not yet been verified if this woman had been raped, however, it was evident that sexual relations had occurred previous to her murder.