Protests Against Continued Murders of Women in Chihuahua

Tony Abdo gojack10 at
Mon Nov 3 10:09:53 MST 2003

Protesters Rally in Mexico Over Slayings
Sun Nov 2

MEXICO CITY - Protesters erected altars at Mexican government offices around
the world Saturday, borrowing a symbol from the annual Day of the Dead to
call attention to the unsolved slaying of scores of young women in the
border state of Chihuahua.      The demonstrators say Mexican President
Vicente Fox (news - web sites) and Chihuahua Gov. Patricio Martinez have not
done enough to solve the killings, saying in a letter delivered to Mexican
consulates that the investigations have been "inept and corrupt."     The
colorful altars are a traditional element in the celebration of the Day of
the Dead, the Nov. 2 holiday in which many Mexicans hold graveside reunions
to honor dead loved ones.

"They need to know that more and more people all over the world are aware of
this," said Sally Meisenhelder, organizer of a demonstration that drew about
250 people in El Paso, Texas, which borders the desert region where most of
the slayings have occurred.    "This has to stop and they have to get
serious about solving these crimes."

Mexican authorities estimate that 258 young women and girls have been killed
over the past decade in and around Juarez, with many of the victims sexually
assaulted. Human rights groups estimate the number of victims at more than
300 since 1993.

In Houston on Saturday, a few protesters gathered at the Mexican Consulate,
carrying pink signs decorated with black crosses and the words "no more,"
"enough," and "shame on you."      Similar protests took place outside
Mexican consulates in cities around the United States.      Protests also
were planned in Mexico City, Paris, Tokyo, and Madrid, Spain, Meisenhelder

While there have been more than a dozen arrests in connection with the
Juarez killings, there has so far been only one conviction for one of the
first victims.

Protester Jose Pineda, 20, a student at the University of Houston, said the
United States should pressure Mexico's government to do more to help solve
the slayings.    "We pride ourselves on being the liberators of people, and
I think that that philosophy should be spread not only when it benefits us
but when it benefits the other side as well," Pineda said.
City remembers slain women
On Day of the Dead, relatives call for more to be done to end killings
Saturday, November 1, 2003
By ALFREDO CORCHADO / The Dallas Morning News

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico – Some mothers would rather forget, not be reminded of
their daughters' tortured deaths.    Others, like Esther Luna, desperately
seek answers.    On Saturday, Mexico's Day of the Dead – when, as Aztec
tradition holds, the living can communicate with the souls of the deceased –
Ms. Luna asked one question of her daughter, Brenda Alfaro, dead for five

"Who killed you, mi hija [my daughter]? There is an emptiness in me, a need
in me to know."

As Mexico continued its two-day commemoration with sometimes festive parties
to remember loved ones, dozens of mothers and fathers in this battered
border community spent Saturday remembering – some, like Ms. Luna, inside
their homes, deep in thought and nostalgia.     Others prayed in local
cemeteries and at the sites where over the past 10 years their daughters'
bodies have been discovered, bones scattered along a vast desert.    Still
others said that it's like Day of the Dead every day.

Of the 325 women slain in Ciudad Juárez, about a third suffered rape and
mutilation before their bodies were dumped. About 49 cases remain under
active investigation, nine of which will probably never be solved,
authorities say. In Chihuahua City, about 275 miles south of here, 16 girls
have disappeared or been confirmed dead.     In downtown Juárez, human
rights groups on Saturday made a low-key pilgrimage to the international
bridge leading to El Paso. In a quiet ceremony as cars zoomed by, women
arranged marigolds beneath a giant wooden cross at the bridge entrance. The
cross has 325 railroad ties, complete with hanging nametags, each tie
symbolizing a dead or missing woman.
The somber daylong event was just one of dozens across Mexico and in at
least 15 countries, including the United States, where human rights
activists protested to pressure Mexico's government into solving what they
call heinous hate crimes against women.     The two-day ritual of Day of the
Dead, Saturday and Sunday, holds added meaning because it is "a day when the
souls return, when we feel their presence, when we can question," said
Sandra Medrano, a human rights activist from Chihuahua City and a National
Feminist Movement of Lawyers member.

Still, in Juárez, apathy about the cases appears to be growing, mostly
because of divisions among support groups. Organizers calling themselves The
Coordinating Board of NGOs in Support of Women expressed disappointment over
the lack of a showing by parents of the dead and missing women.

In front of a towering cathedral, women built a bright altar to honor the
women, complete with melons, pumpkins, apples, tamales and photos of the
deceased. A man strummed his guitar, and women somberly sang.    Organizers
asked onlookers to pray. A handful did, including Lucia Aguilera, 60, who
worries about her four daughters at home.    "I pray for an end to
impunity," said Ms. Aguilera, who sat down after four Hail Marys. "For a
return of peace. We've never seen so much chaos here, so much insecurity."

For years, theories about the killings have simmered, and new ones pop up
all the time: The women were victims of a drug cartel, rich, powerful
families and their offspring. Or they were killed by organ traffickers, who
shipped body parts to the United States. Or U.S. soldiers attacked them – or
satanic cults, or gangs of hoodlums.     "Theories abound," said Esther
Chavez Cano, a prominent human rights activist and director of Casa Amiga,
one of the sponsors of past Day of the Dead events. "But there is no
closure, just a bunch of scapegoats in jail."

On Sunday, demonstrations will continue in the town of Anapra, where the
Catholic bishops of Juárez, El Paso and Las Cruces will celebrate a special
Mass. There, victims of the accused will unite with victims of the murdered,
both demanding justice and a hunt for what they call the real killers.
"We are united in our pain," said Carmen Arqueta, 45, who traveled from
Chihuahua City to bring attention to the plight of her son, Miguel David
Meza Arqueta, accused of murdering Neyra Azucena Cervantes. "We're united in
our nightmare."

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