June 18 2004

Federal Investigator Finds No Evidence of Serial Femicides in Juárez, Chihuahua Disagrees

In a strange turn of events, after a new federal investigation turned up no evidence of serial killings among the first 50 women’s murders it examined in Ciudad Juárez, it is now Chihuahua state law enforcement that is arguing for a pattern of serial murders in the border city.  In the past, while federal officials were considering their possible involvement in Cd. Juárez, it was the state that was attempting to push the number of deaths downward.

On Thursday, June 3, 2004, the federal Special Investigator of Crimes Related to Women’s Homicides, María López Urbina, gave her first major report to an audience that included Mexican President Vicente Fox and federal Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha. According to López, “...in this first group of analyzed cases there are no indicators of serial crimes among them.”

López and her team examined 50 of 307 femicides that have occurred in Cd. Juárez since 1993. An AP article indicated that these cases were the first examined because they were the first received by federal investigators from the state of Chihuahua. López repeatedly dodged questions about whether any of the 50 cases were from among the more than 100 which fit a serial pattern.

Because details of which killings were examined by federal officials were not discussed, it is unknown whether any of the cases related to any of the eight bodies found in a cotton field in Cd. Juárez in November 2001 were examined. Many of these cases are related to the ECCO computer school and there are other cases related to this same business in Chihuahua City (although the federal investigation is not looking into killings there). However, these cases would appear to fit a serial profile.

Manuel Esparza Navarrete, who for years has been the spokesperson for Chihuahua’s special investigation into the killings and is now the spokesperson for the combined state-federal investigation, said that law enforcement has established the presence of “serial killers in Ciudad Juárez.” Strangely, in 2002, Esparza himself minimized the number of killings. At a time when the press, NGOs and the head of Chihuahua’s Supreme Court were saying that there had been 93 femicides that fit the profile of abduction, rape and murder, Esparza said that there had been only 67.

State Law Enforcement Investigated

Another finding from López Urbina’s report is that 81 of 167 Chihuahua law enforcement officials and agents that were or are currently involved in the investigation of women’s murders in Cd. Juárez are now under investigation themselves. They are being investigated for alleged negligence in investigating the crimes.

López said she would not name any of the 81 people because they are currently being investigated by Chihuahua law enforcement. She did howeverstate that seven state lead investigators are among those she indicated. According to the Cd. Juárez newspaper El Diario, there have only been seven lead investigators since the office was created in 1998.

Families Barred From Attending Meeting, Activists Followed

When families of some of the Cd. Juárez victims went to Mexico City and tried to enter López Urbina’s press conference they were told they were not on the list of those invited and were not permitted to enter the function, according to an article in El Diario. Only Ramona Morales, the mother of victim Silvia Rivera Morales, was on the official list.

However, after Morales and other family members saw Commissioner Guadalupe Morfín Otero entering the event with her family, they were finally admitted to the event. Morfín was the first federal official sent to Cd. Juárez to look into the killings. She was not given strong prosecutorial powers though and is focusing instead on making the city safer.

Once inside, Alfredo Limas —a member of a Cd. Juárez anti-violence NGO— said that he and family members were followed around the room wherever they went. Limas, a professor at the Autonomous University of Juárez, said “I had a woman following me, listening to what I said, she went wherever I went, always fixed on me.”

Reprinted from Frontera NorteSur: on-line news coverage of the US-Mexico border: http://frontera.nmsu.edu

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