Mexican women’s groups and lawmakers are outraged over increasing violence against women in Juarez, Mexico and city officials’ indifference. At least 70 women have been raped and murdered, their bodies left in the Chihuahua desert, in the last five years. Women’s groups cite 118 women murdered in the city over the same period.
Young women are attracted to the city from rural villages because of its 400 maquiladora plants and its promise of an independent life. Maquiladora companies help foreign corporations set up production operations in developing countries so that they can exploit the lower labor costs and weaker laws. The women are often mistreated in factories that operate under sweatshop conditions and are paid around $3-a-day.
Protest leader Esther Chavez Cano, who has put together a list of murder victims so that victim’s families can monitor the investigations, commented, “A patriarchal backlash has accompanied these murders.”
City authorities arrested nightclub security guard Sergio Armendariz and members of a gang he led in 1996 and charged them with the murders of 17 women. The bodies of nine more women who had been raped and murdered have been found in the desert since Armendariz’ detention.
Although several Mexican federal congresswomen arrived in Juarez in February on a fact-finding mission to investigate the increasing violence, the governor of Chihuahua, Francisco Barrior Terrazas, supported city authorities’ declaration that the murders had been solved. He said, “It’s been very well handled.”
Barrior said that there is no evidence that the murder rate for women is any higher than in other Mexican cities.