A 16 year-old girl was found dead in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico Tuesday with marks of sexual abuse. She’s the latest victim in a long-running string of unsolved rape-murders. The murder follows demonstrations last weekend to protest the climate of impunity surrounding hundreds of cases of murdered women. While these so-called “femicides” have been occurring in the state of Chihuahua since the mid ’90s, what sparked this weekend’s demonstrations were the recent murders of 2 women who were known for their activism on femicide cases.
Activists held marches and vigils in at least 5 Mexican cities to call for justice in the cases of Marisela Escobedo, Susana Chávez, and hundreds of other women who have been murdered in Mexico.
Before Ciudad Juárez gained the reputation as the murder capitol of the world, it was infamous for its femicide cases. The rapes and murders of young women went unpunished in the border city across from El Paso, Texas…and spread to the state capitol of Chihuahua City. For Norma Ledezma, whose 16 year-old daughter was killed in 2002, there’s a reason the murders have not only continued, but increased:
NORMA LEDEZMA (voiced over from Spanish original): “The reason is impunity. Impunity is an invitation to repeat the same crime. The lack of justice is what is causing the continued murders of women – and of men. History is showing us that in Chihuahua, we continue to have a large number of unsolved murders of women every year. The same killers that were loose 10 years ago could possibly be those who keep killing today. Why? Because there’s no justice. And who’s responsible? Those who are supposed to ensure that justice is served – and haven’t. In other words, the authorities.”
In 2010, the state of Chihuahua registered a record-setting 446 cases of murdered women. Among them was Marisela Escobedo, who was shot in the back of the head outside the Government Palace in Chihuahua City while protesting the lack of action in her murdered daughter’s case.
[sound from Marisela Escobedo in press conference - fade under]
Escobedo was calling for justice. After her daughter went missing, the retired nurse tracked down her son-in-law who confessed to the killing and led police to the spot where he had dumped the remains. But a 3 judge panel released him on a legal technicality. Marisela Escobedo successfully appealed the ruling and was calling on authorities to execute the arrest warrant when she was gunned down. Her murder sent a chill through the community of human rights activists in Mexico. Three weeks later, Juárez-based activist and poet Susana Chávez was found dead with her left hand cut off.
[sound from poetry reading - fade under]
Activists in Ciudad Juárez read poetry written by Susana Chávez in the spot where her body was discovered.
Chihuahua state police investigators say a group of teenagers killed Chávez in a drunken argument. Some people familiar with the city’s femicide cases are skeptical of the official story, others have accepted it.
The murders of 2 women associated with the fight against impunity in Chihuahua’s femicide cases has had an impact on other activists who have received threats. Again, Norma Ledezma of the association Justice for our Daughters.
NORMA LEDEZMA: “I can’t look back and allow fear to paralyze me…but unfortunately, it does limit me. It keeps me from going out at night like I used to. It keeps me from speaking openly with local media like I used to. It limits me by making me sick with stress. But it doesn’t paralyze me.”
Ledezma says she spoke recently with the other mothers of the Justice for our Daughters organization about the killings of anti-femicide activists. She said that if she too is killed, she wants the other mothers to step over her body and continue to seek justice for their murdered daughters.