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Murders Provoke Outcry in Mexican Border City - 2001-11-09


The Mexican border city of Juarez, across the Rio Grande River from El Paso, Texas, is once again being shaken by revelations of murderers stalking young women. In the past few days, police have found the bodies of eight young women who had been raped, tortured and killed before having their bodies dumped in fields outside the city.

The discovery of the decaying corpses near Juarez has led to cries of outrage from women's groups, human rights organizations and other civic entities. Esther Chavez Cano, a leading activist who operates shelters for women in the city, blames the government.

She says the current governor of the state of Chihuahua, Patricio Martinez, campaigned on the issue of fighting crime, but she says that, instead of doing something about this problem, he has tried to cover it up.

Other women activists have also delivered blistering attacks on the state, local and federal governments for their lack of progress in stopping the murders. Since 1993, they estimate, 200 some women have disappeared in Juarez. In more than 60 cases, police have found bodies in the nearby desert or in other remote dumping areas. Many of the victims are young factory workers who must commute from work at odd hours to poor neighborhoods where they are vulnerable to attack.

In response to the latest discoveries, Manuel Carmona, spokesman for the state of Chihuahua's Attorney General's office is offering a reward for information. He says a reward of 200,000 pesos, about $22,000, will be paid in cash to anyone who can provide information about these cases.

Many women's organizations say that it is about time the authorities took this problem seriously. Only now, they note, have police started thinking about gathering DNA evidence at the scene of the crimes and from the bodies of the victims. Esther Chavez Cano says the police have shown incompetence and a lack of interest in these cases that involve poor young women, mostly from other states, who came to Juarez to work and perhaps better their lives.

Three years ago, police in Juarez thought they had solved the string of murders that had put an international spotlight on their city. The arrest and imprisonment of an Egyptian citizen named Abdel Latif Sharif and five bus drivers who were accused of being his accomplices seemed to bring the case to a close. But sporadic killings continued and now, women activists say, it is clear that other murderers are still at large.

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