Human Rights Groups, Women Legislators Angered by Federal Government's Decision Not to Take over Probe of Juarez Murders

SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico, April 30, 2003 | Go to article overview

Human Rights Groups, Women Legislators Angered by Federal Government's Decision Not to Take over Probe of Juarez Murders


The federal government has come under strong criticism for its decision not to assume control of the investigation of hundreds of murders of women in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, during the past 10 years. Authorities have documented 232 deaths since 1993, but some human rights activists and nongovernmental organizations say at least 300 young women have been killed in the past decade. In most cases, the victims were employees of maquiladora factories, store clerks, and middle- and secondary-school students.

The murders of women are the most evident sign of a surge in violent crime in Ciudad Juarez in recent years. The violence is blamed on the drug trade and on deteriorating economic conditions, which is most evident in the downturn in the maquiladora industry (see SourceMex, 2002-09-11).

State, local investigations fail to yield results

The Procuraduria de Chihuahua and Juarez law-enforcement agencies had been in charge of the investigations, with assistance from law-enforcement officials from the federal government, the US FBI, and the El Paso, Texas, police department. But state and local authorities have failed to make much headway in the investigations of the past 10 years.

Authorities have been so incompetent that at times they fabricated evidence and used torture to coerce confessions from a handful of bus drivers, said some local attorneys and other investigators.

"There is not a shred of physical evidence linking these men to the killings," said a Chihuahua state official who was leading the forensic investigation. He made the statements shortly after resigning from the case.

The lack of progress in the investigations led human rights organizations and federal legislators to ask the Procuraduria General de la Republica (PGR) to assume full control of the case.

After an extended review, the PGR determined there was insufficient evidence of a criminal conspiracy under the Ley Federal de la Delincuencia to warrant a transfer of the investigation to federal authorities.

Ironically, the PGR's decision to remain at the margins of the case is based on the inability of Chihuahua state officials to prove that a gang of criminals and bus drivers were responsible for at least 30 of the murders.

"The PGR has the legal, political, and ethical obligation to assume control of this case," said Sen. Dulce Maria Sauri of the former governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).

Sauri disputed Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha's argument that the case does not meet the conditions of the Ley Federal de Delincuencia because she said all the deaths had similar characteristics.

In late April, the Senate approved a resolution introduced by Sauri to summon Macedo to testify before the Senate at the beginning of the next ordinary session on May 21.

The human rights community, including several international organizations, has long criticized federal authorities for remaining on the sidelines in this case. "When a problem becomes as large as this one, it is necessary for federal authorities to intervene," said Marta Altoaguirre Maldonado, who is the special rapporteur on women's rights for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). …

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