Juarez, Mexico Murders
Juarez, Mexico Murders
Since 1993 Juarez, Mexico has been experiencing an extreme level of violence directed toward women. This level of violence has received little attention from Mexican authorities and even less attention from the international community. The estimated total of victims is speculated to be around 400; however local residents may believe the total to be around 5,000 victims. According to the organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as of 2003 most of these cases remain unsolved. These unsolved murders have even captured the interest of Hollywood. “The Bridge follows two police detectives – one Mexican, one American – and their joint effort to investigate a serial killer menacing both nations along the Texas–Chihuahua border. Their investigation is complicated by the rampant corruption and general apathy among the Mexican authorities and the violence of the powerful borderland drug cartels. The show title refers to the Bridge of the Americas that serves as a border crossing between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, where the series is set.” (Rosenfeld, n.d.) A primary plot point of The Bridge is the violence that has been and continues to occur near the border region of the U.S. and Mexico.
Victims of this violence have been mostly women between the ages of 12 and 22, many of these women have been students, and however most were manufacturing workers of maquiladores. “Annually, more than $300 billion in trade occurs between the U.S. and Mexico, of which about 15% is transported via ports of entry that connect El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico.” (Beaulieu, n.d.) the fact that so much trade between Mexico and the United States is coming through the Juarez region this means that there are large numbers of individuals crossing the border every day to transport materials and goods to and from manufacturing plants, this also means that large numbers of individuals (women in particular) are moving from other areas of Mexico to seek employment in Juarez manufacturing plants. “With more than 1,100 manufacturing operations in the region, it is one of the most important industrial centers in all of North America. A wide range of global corporations from more than 20 nations congregate here to produce automotive parts, consumer electronics, medical devices and more-and these operations typically consume an estimated $8 billion in component parts, raw materials and services on an annual basis. There are some challenges, however.” (Beaulieu, n.d.) Large amounts of transient populations are likely to cause a rise in crime rates. Individuals can commit a crime then disappear into the crowd and move on to another location in Mexico of back to their home nation. Another reason that allows for the women of Juarez to be victimized, young women are living away from friends and family, therefore their disappearances are not noticed right away. Generally the victims were reported missing by families and their bodies were found days, weeks, or months later in abandoned or vacant lots, in outlying areas or in the desert. Most of these victims had signs of sexual violence, torment and/or torture and some showed signs of disfigurement.
According to Amnesty International as of February 2005 more than 370 young women and girls had been murdered in the cities of Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua. As of November 2005, the BBC news reported Mexico’s human rights ombudsman Jose Luis Soberanes as saying that 28 women had been murdered so far in 2005. Despite the fact that there are current unsolved murders, in August 2006 the federal government dropped its investigation concluding that no federal law had been violated. Considering Juarez, Mexico’s location and interconnectedness to the United States, it is somewhat surprising that there has not been more of an American outcry over these murders and little to no international attention. It is also possible that the unknown subject(unsub) in these crimes is an American that that he(or she) is crossing the border to commit murder and then crossing back to the United States. This UNSUB will not fear apprehension due to the fact that U.S. authorities are not looking for a murder suspect and Mexican authorities are apparently unwilling or unable to solve these murders.
An additional complication to the investigation of Juarez’s female victims is the level of Cartel violence that is occurring in this region. “Juarez remains one of the most important border crossings and one of the more significant local drug markets in Mexico, meaning it will always be a prize for drug trafficking groups. If the Juarez Cartel and its allies carved out a reliable region of control in the remote drug-producing Golden Triangle, the only way for them to take full advantage would be to secure a border crossing. The most logical city in such a scenario would be Juarez, meaning the extreme violence would likely migrate down from the sierra and back into the city.” (Corcoran, 2013, August 23) Due to the fact that Juarez is such an important location for the trafficking of narcotics from Mexico into the United States, violence in this region will be higher than in other regions just for the simple fact that cartels will continuously fight with one another to maintain control of this prime drug trafficking location. “Official figures have been issued only sporadically. Most estimates put the number of people killed in drug-related violence since late 2006 at more than 60,000. Although there is no official breakdown of the numbers, the victims include suspected drug gang members, members of the security forces and those considered innocent bystanders. Analysts tracked an overall decline in violence during 2012, continuing a trend from the previous year.” (News, 2013, July 16) While it appears that violent crime in Juarez has been falling over the last several years, the fact remains that the border region of the United States is a dangerous place and someone, be that drug cartels, a serial killer or a satanic cult is killing women and leaving their bodies in the desert and both U.S. and Mexican law enforcement authorities seem unwilling or unable to bring this violence to an end.
General Background Information
There are several factors that make Juarez, Mexico an interesting place to study, location and size being a large part of those factors. “Ciudad Juarez is the largest city in the State of Chihuahua and the 5th (some say 4th) largest city in all of Mexico. With a population of almost 2 million people” (Juarez Mexico Travel Guide - Juarez Mexico Map, Mapa, Restaurants, Nightlife, Discussion Forum - Ciudad Juarez, n.d.) in addition to this “Juarez, Mexico is located just across the border from El Paso, Texas. Together the two cities form the one of the largest international border communities on earth.”(Juarez Mexico Travel Guide - Juarez Mexico Map, Mapa, Restaurants, Nightlife, Discussion Forum - Ciudad Juarez, n.d.) Juarez is not some small town in the middle of Mexico with little or no connection to the United States, she is a large metropolis whose sister city is a large metropolis in south western state (Texas). Any incident which might occur inside El Paso, Texas will impact any incidents which could be occurring in Juarez, Mexico and vise versa. Given the fact that Juarez and El Paso are so interconnected, it is completely possible that the UNSUB in this case is an American citizen who is crossing the border to dispose of victims and thusly avoiding detection. This possibility is backed up by the fact that as of 2006 the Mexican government has decided that it will no longer be investigating the deaths of women in Juarez. In addition, U.S. authorities have made little to no attempt to assist in the investigation.
There are additional aspects that demonstrate that Juarez Mexico and the U.S. are interconnected, Juarez has benefited from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NFTA) large corporations such as DuPont and General Electric have opened plants in the city, attracting young women to the area seeking employment. The young women are known as maquiladoras. Finally, Juarez is also ground zero for the “war on drugs” “The cartels control the trafficking of drugs from South America to the US, a business that is worth an estimated $13bn a year. Their power grew as the US stepped up anti-narcotics operations in the Caribbean and Florida. A US state department report estimated that as much as 90% of all cocaine consumed in the US comes via Mexico.” (Q&A: Mexico's drug-related violence, 2013, July 16) There is little doubt that Mexican Drug Cartels are responsible for a large portion of the violence that is occurring in Juarez, however it is unlikely that these groups are responsible for the murders and/or violence toward women that is occurring in the region.
The young women are attracted to Juarez for work in the large U.S. manufacturing plants. These young women are away from family (either living away from family or living with family but working outside family influence); these young women are also of lower socio-economic status, regardless of country of birth (or residence) those of lower income are disposable members of a society. The victims of the Juarez killer(s) are prime candidates for victimization, they are alone and vulnerable, add to this the fact that the women are marginalized members of society or “less dead” (victims that are marginalized and do not matter in life receive little or no attention or remain marginalized even in death). Their deaths have received little attention from local Mexican authorities and have received little to no international attention.
There is no exact number of victims attributed to the Juarez Killer(s) it is possible that some of the bodies that have been found in the desert around Juarez can be attributed to drug violence, domestic violence, and failed attempts to enter the U.S. illegally. However, there is evidence to indicate that some of the bodies that have been found share similar characteristics. The victims of these crimes have predominately been young women between 12 and 22 years of age. Many were students, and most were maquiladore (manufacturing) workers a number were relative newcomers to Ciudad Juarez who had migrated from other areas of Mexico. In addition, many of the victims were young, slim, dark complexion, shoulder length hair, poor daughters of the working class (NPR)
The victims in question share similar characteristics. The first victim (or at least the first officially recognized victim) was Alma Chavira Farel; this victim was found beaten, raped and strangled to death in the Campestre Virreyes district of Juarez on January 23, 1993. There were no mutilations found in this case, however subsequent victims suffered similar slashing wounds to their breasts. There were a total of 16 (acknowledged) murders in 1993; of those there are a dozen cases that remain unsolved, five of the cases remain unidentified, and four were raped. Cause of death in those cases includes strangulation (in four cases), stabbing (in four cases, with being set on fire afterward), one beating, and one gunshot. In the last two, decomposition ruled out determination of cause of death.
Eight unsolved murders of women were identified in 1994 (although the number may be much higher). In those cases, three of the bodies remain unidentified. These victims ranged in age from 11-35. Four were raped, of those were cause of death would be identified, six had been strangled, two had been stabbed, one beaten to death, and one burned alive.
By mid-September of 1995, 19 women had been killed. In these cases, eight of the victims remain unidentified. At least four of the victims were raped. Where cause of death could be determined, six were strangled, one stabbed, and one shot. Three of the four victims found in September alone presented police with an obvious pattern: each had her right breast severed, with the left nipple bitten off.
During the first week of April 1996 at least 14 more female victims were slain in Ciudad Juarez, their ages ranged from 10 to 30. Where cause of death was known, 10 had been stabbed, one shot and one strangled. At least four suffered unspecified mutilations after death, and one victim--Adrianna Torres, 15, fit the pattern of three other slayings, with her right breast severed and her left nipple bitten off. In addition at least 16 female victims were slain between late April and November 1996. Eight remain unidentified. Five were stabbed, three shot, and one was found in a drum of acid. In several cases advanced decomposition made determinations about cause of death or sexual assault impossible.
As of 1997 there were 17 unsolved murders of females. Again they ranged in age from 10 to 30 years, and seven of the dead were never identified. While rape was confirmed in only four cases, the position and nudity of several other corpses suggested sexual assault. In the cases where the cause of death could be determined, five were stabbed, three were strangled, three shot, and two beaten. In 1998 there were 23 on the books by December. Six remained unidentified. The killings reflected the usual pattern of stabbings, strangling, bullets and burning.
Rocio Barrazza Gallegos was killed on September 21 in the parking lot of the city’s police academy. She was strangled inside a patrol car by a cop assigned to the “murdered women” case. Authorities described the death of 20-year-old Rosalina Veloz Vasquez, found dead on January 25, as “similar to 20 other murders in the city.” There were at least eight more victims as of 1999 and by January of 2003 published estimates of the body count ranged from “nearly 100” to 340. No one tried to tabulate the missing persons anymore (Newton, n.d.)
More important than identifying the UnSub in this case is identifying why both U.S. and Mexican authorities are not more concerned with bringing this perpetrator to justice. This far this individual(s) have been able to kill large numbers of women with impunity. The investigation will be difficult for several reasons; one of those reasons is the proximity to the United States. It is possible that the UnSub is a citizen of the United States (or at least resides in the United States either legally or illegally) and due to the fact that the victims have all been Mexican Citizens U.S. law enforcement authorities have had to reason to search for the killer. Another reason that these murders were allowed to continue is apathy on the part of Mexican authorities. These victims fall into the category of the less dead or individuals that were marginalized in life continue to be marginalized in death. The victims were not rich or from powerful families therefore resources are not going to be expended investigating the deaths of poor Mexican girls.
The fictional detective Sherlock Holmes made the statement “'Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.” (Doyle, 1890) Obvious answers in the case of the murdered Juarez women is not forthcoming, law enforcement on both sides of the border appear to be baffled on who may be committing these crimes. All they know is that mutilated bodies of young women are being found in the desert. One of the more wild theories surrounding this case is that some type of Satanic Cult may be involved. “No one is certain of the motives for the murders of women in Ciudad Juarez. Some say that the killings are a form of blood sport for the city's elite, but there are also stories of satanic cults, snuff films and organ thieves looking for easy prey. Perfunctory investigations by the Mexican authorities have yielded nothing. The killers are not relenting.” (Gupta, 2011 February 17) Admittedly the idea of a Satanic Cult killing victims in the United States backyard seems a little silly. That is until one takes the time to consider that ritual murders/human sacrifice is still occurring across the world and that Mexican spiritual belief includes the belief in Brujeria a traditional Mexican religious belief in witches and witchcraft(similar to Wicca or Paganism in the United States). While the majority of these groups will be non-violent it is not outside the realm of possibility that one or more groups in Mexico are engaging in ritual sacrifice.
It is hard to come by an accurate number of victims. One estimate by the city's El Diario newspaper has 878 women in total killed between 1993 and 2010; some locals put the figure in the thousands. It can take months for bodies to be discovered - if they ever are - because the desert surrounding the city is so vast. Often by the time the remains are found, the heat has mummified them. Many more women are reported missing than are confirmed dead. (Gupta, 2011 February 17)
Without knowing an exact number of victims it becomes difficult to identify the scope of the problem. In addition, without having found all victims that can be attributed to this killer(s) law enforcement will lack forensic evidence that will connect the UnSub to the crime. Every time an UnSub interacts with a victim evidence will be transferred between victim and offender. In addition, with its being weeks, months of even years before a victim is reported missing is additional time that the UnSub will have to remove him or herself from the crime.
The locations where the victims’ bodies have been found are body dump sites. It is unlikely that the victims have been killed at this location. Therefore the victims are killed at some other location and brought to the Juarez desert after the crime has been completed. The UnSub is most likely aware of the area and knows where to put the bodies to postpone discovery for as long as possible. Based on this the UnSub will live and/or work in the area.
Also the idea that a satanic cult is operating in this area and dumping sacrificial victims in the region cannot be discounted. As evidence is lacking as to any other motive perhaps a different motive should be considered for these crimes.
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