From the March-April 2011 issue of News & Letters:
by Gerry Emmett
Violence attributed to rival drug cartels has again fallen heavily on the border areas around Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. In one weekend in February, 53 people died in the city of only 1.5 million. Since 2008, over 7,600 have died, with 3,112 murdered last year alone. Beyond the cartels, there is suspicion that businesses intend to profit from driving people from prime real estate around the city.
Ciudad Juárez’s violence has fallen heavily upon women. Over 400 have been murdered in the last decade, with another 400 disappeared. Recent threats and attacks have targeted activists, including those who have fought the femicide. Human Rights Watch has called for investigations into these incidents, which include:
• Threats to labor advocate Cipriana Jurado.
• Threats to Irma Monreal and Paula Flores, activist mothers of murdered teenage girls, who were driven from Juárez.
• A suspicious fire at the home of María Luisa García Andrade, a leader of Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa (May our Daughters Return Home). She became an activist when her sister was raped and murdered.
• Marisela Reyes Salazar was leading a hunger strike, and three of her politically active relatives disappeared on Feb. 7. Another relative, Sara Salazar, had her home burned down shortly after. Two other relatives, Josefina Reyes and Rubén Reyes, were murdered.
• Marisela Escobedo Ortiz was shot to death in December outside the governor’s palace in Chihuahua, while seeking justice following her daughter’s slaying.
In a grim symbol of sheer horror, one of the victims was the respected poet and women’s rights activist Susana Chávez Castillo, who coined the slogan, “Ni una más,” “Not one more!” She was raped and murdered in January. Her left hand was cut off. In one of her last poems, Susana Chávez had written of: “Sangre clara y definida,” blood of clarity and definition–and in a terrible way, her death does clarify and define the inhumanity that needs to be totally uprooted and destroyed.
Authorities treated her death the way they often do, saying that she was drunk and fell among bad company–the same pattern of blaming the victim that is a common answer to the families of women killed.
The difficulty in appealing to the legal authorities was also illustrated by the role of a recently killed prominent cartel gunman, Luis Humberto Peralta Hernández, “the Condor.” He was reputed to be responsible for over 100 murders, and his cartel is blamed for most of the killing in Ciudad Juárez. He had also been a member of the Chihuahua state prosecutors’ office.