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National NOW Times >> Fall 2006 >> Article

NOW Continues Campaign to End Violence Against Women in Juarez, Mexico

By Zenaida Mendez
Director of Racial Diversity Programs

NOW members, leaders, and other activists demonstrate 
        in Juarez, Mexico, to end the violence against women that has been plaguing 
        the area for years.

Photo by Barbara Timmer

NOW members, leaders, and other activists demonstrate in Juarez, Mexico, to end the violence against women that has been plaguing the area for years.

Over the last decade, nearly 400 women have been abducted and murdered in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua, Mexico. Many of the murders share a similar modus operandi—the women are brutally beaten, raped and killed, and their bodies left in the desert or on a secluded street. Most of the victims have been young women on their way to or from work at maquiladoras, or assembly factories. Little has been done to solve the crimes or prevent more killings.

Just when it seemed a break in the cases would never come, three men recently were identified as suspects. Edgar Alvarez Cruz was arrested in Denver, Colo., on August 15, after Mexican authorities asked for help from the U.S. in finding Cruz. He was taken back to Mexico, where he was arrested and charged in at least one of the Juarez crimes. Investigators are working on establishing whether he is tied to more crimes. Cruz was identified as a possible perpetrator by Jose Francisco Granados, who confessed in March (while in federal prison on immigration charges) to his own involvement in the raping and killing of women in Juarez. Granados continues to serve time in federal prison in New Jersey.

A third man, Alejandro Delgado Valles, also confessed to participating in the kidnapping of some of the Juarez women; however, he denies taking part in the killings. Valles is now a protected witness and is working with investigators. While the investigation is still pending, and some of the evidence has been called into question, officials with the U.S. Embassy in Mexico called the arrest "a major break" in the unsolved murders of women in Juarez.

Last year NOW introduced a campaign to stop the violence against women in Juarez. At the campaign kick-off in December, NOW members and activists marched from El Paso, Texas, to Juarez, Mexico, to protest the hundreds of murders and demand official action. In July, the Women of Juarez workshop at our National Conference included a showing of the documentary "Preguntas Sin Respuestas" ("Unanswered Questions") to a packed house.

NOW and our sister organizations have been very concerned about delays in the investigations, particularly with the current political situation in Mexico, and with the passage of time the families of the victims have grown less optimistic that authorities will solve the cases.

These recent developments are an unexpected yet welcome development for the families, as well as for NOW activists working on the campaign. Due to all the publicity in the U.S. and the work done by NOW and other organizations with elected officials like Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.), the authorities in El Paso and other border cities were encouraged and supported to take action.

"The U.S. is committed to helping Mexico find the killers of hundreds of women in Ciudad Juárez," U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza said of the latest breakthrough: "The arrest is a very important step toward solving several of these horrific crimes."

Organizations like Amigos de las Mujeres de Juarez issued a report a few months ago on the Mexican government's dereliction of duty. Amigos also released "It's Not a Myth"—the response to a concerted media campaign by the elites of Juarez to portray the victims as the criminals.

Amigos de las Mujeres asked residents in border states to contact their state representatives and governor and ask that a bi-national investigative body be formed to begin an investigation that was never done by the Mexican government.

"It is a good sign that the U.S. law enforcement officials are working in cooperation with the Mexican authorities," said NOW Executive Vice President Olga Vives. "We are cautiously optimistic that all of the guilty parties will be found, charged and convicted of these terrible crimes against women; we ask that the investigation of the hundreds of murders not stop with the arrests of these three men."

 

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