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Rights Groups Outraged at Police Failure to Stop Murder Spree in Juarez, Mexico - 2003-02-18

Police in Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from the city of El Paso, Texas, are investigating the deaths of three young women. Their bodies were found Monday in a desert ravine. Women's groups and human rights organizations are expressing outrage that local authorities have failed to stop the killers who have claimed more than 300 lives in the past 10 years.

Investigators found the remains of the three women in the same area where around 20 other bodies have been found in recent years. Police spokesmen have declined to provide any details of the investigation so far but preliminary information indicates that the women were murdered. One victim had her hands tied behind her back.

Police say they will make an effort to identify the victims and search for clues to find the killer or killers. But the Juarez representative of the Mexican Human Rights Commission, Adriana Carmona, says local authorities are not doing enough.

She says it appears impunity rules in her city. Ms. Carmona says the efforts made by Mexican and international human rights groups, and what she describes as the small efforts made by local authorities, have not been sufficient to stop the killings.

Over the past decade, more than 320 bodies of young women have been found in and around Juarez, a city of 1.3 million people. Many of the victims have been workers in local maquiladoras, or assembly plants, which are located in Juarez to take advantage of the proximity of the U.S. border. The closeness of the border may also have something to do with the murder spree, according to some investigators.

A former profiler for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI, who worked in Juarez for a time with local authorities said one or more serial killers were responsible for at least several dozen of the victims. The former FBI profiler, Robert Ressler, said the killer or killers could be living on the U.S. side of the border and crossing over occasionally to commit the murders.

Women's activists in Juarez say their city could be a magnet for such killers because of the climate of violence and the lack of effective law enforcement. Juarez has also been the scene of hundreds of other killings, many of which are related to drug trafficking.