Anne Marie Mackler, FNS Editor
Although domestic violence against women in Cd. Juárez is on the increase, the number of homicides of women has fallen. The most important concern, however, is that women are not safe in this border city, and efforts to investigate and remedy this problem, if not immediately successful, are certainly growing qualitatively and quantitatively.
Domestic Crimes Increasing
According to Zulema Bolívar, coordinator for the Sexual Crimes and Crimes Against Family Special Unit of the Office of Preliminary Investigations for the State of Chihuahua, at least one case of violence against women is reported each day, and 80 percent of those are within families or the perpetrators have a close relationships with the victim.
Of those 25-30 reported cases, 90 percent of them are processed through the Public Ministry and guilty verdicts are found. There is no follow up on these cases however. Her responsibility ends with the the conviction which is problematic due to the repetitive nature of domestic perpetrators.
At Casa Amiga, the crisis center for victims of crimes of sexual and domestic violence in Cd. Juárez, they are also seeing approximately 28 cases a month, the majority of them incestuous or domestic in nature. “We need to change the laws, as it stands the city carries an image of being very dangerous, and it is a tragedy that there is no respect in our homes,” said Esther Chávez Cano. “We need to educate young boys and teach them that men are not more powerful than women.”
Casa Amiga is currently working at the state level on a prevention campaign for the new year and urges everyone to speak out against domestic violence because “great people are victims to these horrible crimes.”
The laws that exist do not help fight domestic crime in an efficient way, according to Mirna Mercado Gutiérrez, a coordinator of Casa Amiga. Not nearly enough of the crimes that are reported result in convictions and even when adequate proof has been presented, the criminals are still set free. The message sent to the society is too often one that promotes this type of crime.
Homicides Are Down
Suly Ponce Prieto, lead investigator for a special task force of the Chihuahua State Attorney General’s Office, said that even though domestic violence is on the increase, the murders of women has decreased. In 1999, twenty-two women were murdered compared to 42 in 1998, and sexual assault as a motive for the crimes also decreased. Of those 22 murders, six were sexual attacks (1999), and of 42 murders in 1998, sixteen of them were sexual attacks, demonstrating a decrease from 38 to 27 percent in one year.
“We are trying to get answers for the victims’ families. Impunity is a factor that keeps crime statistics high, therefore we need to know who the assassins are so they will not receive impunity.” Ponce also expressed that, “We have to remember that this (violence against women) can happen to any of us.”
Ponce Prieto also noted that more women are making use of the legal system and utilizing it to their benefit and the benefit of their children.
Families Begin Painting Campaign For Justice
In early November, family members of female murder victims in Cd. Juárez began a painting campaign in the colonia of Anapra and painted telephone poles with pink squares bearing black crosses and the the word “JUSTICIA.”
The pink square represents the woman, the black cross represents the mourning for the loved one, and the word represents the dissatisfaction family members experience when dealing with the authorities, according to Guillermina González. González is a member of “Voices Without Echo,” a non-profit human rights group made up victims’ family members who are unhappy with the State government’s lack of investigations or convictions in the cases of their murdered loved ones.
“They might have bus drivers in prison, and Abdel Latif Sharif, but no one really knows for sure who killed our sisters and daughters, no one knows, for example, who killed my sister,” said González.”
The painting campaign will continue every two weeks until the city is covered with the message, and family members encourage everyone to help out.
“Day of No Violence Against Women”
While most people from the U.S. were eating their Thanksgiving dinners, some 50 family members and friends of female murder victims celebrated “The Day of No Violence Against Women,” in Cd. Juárez. In a symbolic act against the violence, the group marched along El Lote Bravo, a road where nine of nearly 200 murder victims’ bodies were found. White flowers were placed in the sites where the bodies were discovered, and then the group completed the vigil with poetry and song at Plaza de Armas in downtown Cd. Juárez.
“It is time to say “Zero Tolerance” to violence and impunity,” said Lilia Quintana, an event coordinator.
Assassins and Assailants
The Bus Drivers
The five bus drivers, including Jesús Guardado Márquez (El Tolteca), accused of sexually assaulting and murdering between seven and 20 women in Cd. Juárez, were moved in late October from the local prison to the one in Cd. Chihuahua for security purposes. This move, ordered by the State Attorney General, will not hinder the investigation of their charges nor will it allow them to communicate with Latif Sharif, their alleged gang leader, who is also incarcerated in this facility, according to Ponce Prieto. Ponce Prieto also announced that they have names of other people who may have been involved with this supposed gang, and the search for these suspects continues. The moves came as a surprise to the prisoners and other authorities involved.
On a related note, Guadalupe Guardado Márquez, the younger brother of El Tolteca, was accused of rape and assault in early November by his wife, who also accused him of beating their young daughter. Although Zulema Bolívar, coordinator for the Sexual Crimes and Crimes Against Family Special Unit of the Office of Preliminary Investigations, filed a report of flagrancy against the accused after her investigation of the victim’s charges, Judge Netzahualcoyotl Zúñiga determined that based on law, there was no flagrancy.
Student Raped, Accused Claims It Was His Twin
In early October a young college student was raped on her way to classes at the Universidad Autónoma de Juárez (UACJ) and the accused was put in jail to wait for processing. Although José Guadalupe Mercado Chávez denies the charges, and his wife and sons verify his alibi, he has not yet proven satisfactorily to the court that he did not commit the crime, and Judge Alberto Vásquez Quintero of the third court ordered him to remain in prison until trial. Mercado Chávez claims the crime was probably committed by his twin brother, who, like Mercado, works for the municipality, however the twin has not been located. Co-workers said that the jailed Mercado is a very responsible employee.
Woman’s Skull Found
In late November a human skull was found in a field on the outskirts of Cd. Juárez and was later verified to be that of a woman between the ages of 18 and 20. A sculpted reconstruction of the woman’s face will be created by Chihuahua security officials to assist in identifying the body. It is believed that the person has been dead for nearly two years but no cause of death was reported.
The assassin of Blanca Estela Vasquez, 44, and originally from the U.S., was apprehended in late November. Victor Vicente López Zavala, 25, said that he killed Vasquez with two shots to the head because she had threatened to kill him when he was released from prison and he decided to kill her first before she kept her promise.
Alejandro Alvarado Valenzuela, 27, killed his wife María de Lourdes Galván Juárez, 26, and then killed himself in late November. He had written letters expressing his intent to kill his three daughters and his wife’s best friend; fortunately he never committed these crimes. In his letters he expressed his inability to live without his wife whom had recently left him. He also asked his parents not to hate him for killing his wife.
Border Cities Plagued With Tourist Sex Ring
A recent study by Unicef and the Mexican Department of Family Development (DIF) indicated that underground networks of childhood prostitution not only exist in Cd. Juárez but are broadly promoted in tourism packets.
According to Elba Gómez Cabra, director of DIF, there are agencies that distribute promotional packets for the city and they include information about sexual services provided by minors. “We do not know who is publishing or offering this type of tourist business, but it is definitely operating out of Cd. Juárez.”
Juan Manuel Carmona, director of social communication for the state, said that authorities will monitor ports of entry into Cd. Juárez in response to this report, and more closely scrutinize checkpoints to get to the bottom of this matter. However, Esther Chávez Cano, director of the Casa Amiga crisis center, believes this is not the necessary approach to the problem.
Chávez wants to emphasize the need for laws that punish the people that engage in sexual solicitation and activities with minors. An investigation of the network distributing this type of information, according to Chávez, is less important than the investigation of how to prevent childhood prostitution and finding and punishing the criminals who commit these sex crimes.
“Sometimes the authorities conduct investigations which tell us what the solicitors did and how they did it, however they never solve the problem.”
According to Jorge García Acosta, president of the Mexican Association of Travel Agents, there is no such problem. “It is natural for these types of rumors to spread, and it is known that for many years no network of child prostitutes has been discovered.” Acosta says he knows such businesses exist in places like Cuba, or other parts of México, but, he says, “We know this is not the case in Cd. Juárez.”
Book On Murders Published
A group of seven women writers from Cd. Juárez recently published their new book Silence Broken By Voices (El silencio que la voz de todas Quiebra). The collaborative effort included Adriana Candia, Patricia Cabrera, Josefina Martínez, Isabel Velázquez, Rohry Benítez, Guadalupe de la Mora, and Ramona Ortiz. The book is a literary endeavor as well as an analytical and investigative report on the murders of women in Cd. Juárez over the last six years. While bringing life to the victims by telling their stories, the book also condemns the shoddy police work done by the responsible authorities. The book was co-published by the Department of Chicano Studies at New Mexico State University, the Independent University of Cd. Juárez (UACJ) and Casa Amiga. Fronteralooks forward to reviewing the book for a future issue.
Sources: El Diario, El Norte de la Ciudad Juárez