Nearly 270 women have been raped and murdered in Juarez, Mexico since 1993, yet Mexican officials are still no closer to finding their killers. Worse still, the murders have not stopped, and women are still at risk. The majority of victims, usually workers at U.S. owned assembly plants and factories, were raped and then strangled, their bodies left in the Chihuahua desert. The Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR), part of the Organization of American States (OAS) called for an investigation into the killings this month. BBC News reports that the investigation may be conducted by the coalition of women’s groups from Mexico and the United States, after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) suggested that the killers could be living in the U.S. Juarez is on the border across from El Paso, Texas.
Women’s groups in Mexico have been trying to call attention to the serial murders in Juarez for over nine years. Esther Chavez, a Mexican feminist in Juarez, has tried to create public outrage in Mexico and in the U.S. Chavez created a list of victims, so families can monitor the progress of the investigations and spoke about the killings at the Feminist Expo 2000 in Baltimore, Maryland. In the U.S., the Feminist Majority Foundation met with the U.S. Secretary of Commerce urging him to pressure U.S. industrial leaders to do more to protect the safety of their Mexican female employees. The Coalition on Violence Against Women and Families on the Border, headed by Texas state legislator Norma Chavez, is now trying to set up a reward for information that will lead to the arrest of the murderers responsible.
The BBC reports that several suspects have been arrested in connection with the murders. According to the Associated Press, however, a number of suspects claimed that they were tortured into confessing to the killings. A pattern has also emerged. After each arrest, more murders occur. Marta Altolaguirre, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women at IACHR, recently returned from Juarez where she was analyzing the status of women’s rights. Of the murders, Altolaguirre commented, “There unarguably has been a certain degree of negligence.” Mexican President Vincente Fox has now said that federal investigators will help local officials with the investigation. In the meantime, women remain in danger.