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					      Headline: The murdered women of JUAREZ
      Subhead: Along the Mexican border, where free-trade
                 factories hum with the sounds of cheap labour,
                 nearly 400 women and girlsas young as 6 have been
                 found murdered in the past decade. Somepoint to
                 the work of a serial killer while others fear
                 theslayings are the result of a sadistic new sport.
                 How many morewill it take to declare a national
                 emergency? By LindaDiebel
Reporter/Byline: By Linda Diebel Toronto Star
      Captions: PHOTOS BY CARLOS OSORIO TORONTO STAR
                 Julia Camarena tells how the man who raped her
                 children is now free from jail and visits Juarez often.
                 Eight crosses stand at Campo Algodonero in Ciudad
                 Juarez. In this field the bodies of eight murdered women
                 were found. Many women who go missing in Juarez are
                 never found - just bodies too disfigured to identify.
                 Esther Chavez Cano of Casa Amiga helps Julia
                 Camarena with money for her kids' school supplies.
       Dateline: CIUDAD JUAREZ, MEXICO
          Text: "By 'feminicide' we mean murders which include torture,
                 blows to the head or body, mutilation, bites, often to the
                 breast or genitals, tying up the victim or any kind of
                 abuse which seems to have as its aim the elimination of
                 women."

                  Sociologist Julia Monarrez

                  CIUDAD JUAREZ, MEXICO - All is dust, dust to dust, in
                  the high desert overlooking the city of Juarez, across
                  the Rio Grande from El Paso. Dust coats skin, fills
                  mouths and, in the little grocery tienda of the Gonzalez
                  Flores family, gets into everything not wrapped in
                  plastic. Guillermina Gonzalez absently wiped away dust
                  on a recent evening, as she talked about her sister
                  Sagrario, who entered the inauspicious ranks of the
                  murdered women of Juarez eight years ago. Their
                  numbers are now so great they have brought dubious
                  fame to Juarez as a leader in feminicide in the
                  Americas, though local VIPs quibble over where their
                  city places in the roll call of the dead.
It was a dark night with only a crescent moon and
occasional streetlamp to cast a dim glow over the
hillside shantytown of Lomas de Poleo. On such a night,
Sagrario disappeared into blackness, as any girl could,
with none to mark her passing. The wind howled, dogs
barked and we could hear the whistle of the Union
Pacific, hurtling by on the American side. Thousands of
illegals from Latin America cross this border and hop
these trains every year, many falling and losing arms,
legs, even their lives, in the desperate, never-ending
quest to reach the promised land.

In her way, Sagrario, too, reached the promised land, or
rather had a grip on it. She just couldn't hold on.

She was a sweet girl who sang in the church choir,
taught catechism to children and was oblivious to her
dark and ripening beauty. She was proud and happy to
join her older sister and parents working in a new
maquila, one of about 300 foreign-owned assembly
plants in the city's free-trade zone. Her farming family
came north from Durango to find work and, every day,
Sagrario left the dust and poverty of Lomas de Poleo for
the humming factories of the Developed World. These
factories are in Mexico but not really of Mexico. The
family traveled to work together until Sagrario's shift
changed and, on April 16, 1998, she didn't come home.

Sagrario was 17 when she disappeared, to be found two
weeks later, her body badly decomposed, in a shallow
desert grave. She'd been stabbed five times but that's
not what killed her. She died of asphyxiation, perhaps
from blood in her lungs; perhaps from dirt in her
airways. Her family doesn't know when she died, leaving
lurid imaginings of her suffering. When at last police
returned Sagrario's Virgin de Guadalupe medal, her
mother, Paula, cried out to Mexico's patron saint:
"Where were you when they were murdering my
daughter?"

For years, Guillermina, 29, focused her grief on the
campaign to stop the violence. By 1998, an estimated
187 women had been murdered in Juarez over five
years, many mutilated and sexually assaulted, with
breasts hacked off, objects thrust up body cavities and
deep slashes across chest and face - that is, when
decomposition allowed such grisly details to be
observed. As early as 1993, Juarez criminologist Oscar
Maynes, then state forensics chief, recognized the
pattern of serial killing, but he was rebuffed. Many
victims were poor, darker-skinned women with Indian
features, potentially making the crimes about race and
class. About one-fifth, maybe more, were maquila
workers.

The murders continued, sweeping up girls as young as
6 and 7. Remains were found in 55-gallon drums,
soaked in acid, or covered in gasoline and set ablaze.
Bodies were tossed in garbage bags. Women were
bound, with panties wound around knees and scarves
or purse strings tied around throats. One distraught
mother of a murdered 16-year-old told a women's forum
in 2002: "When we found her, my daughter's body
spoke of everything that had been done to her."

For the most part, these murders remain unsolved;
serial killers walk free.

Crosses mark the sites of bodies. Last year, on March
23, Coral Arrieta Medina, 17, was discovered raped and
murdered in the same scrubland of Lote Bravo where
the first bodies were found in 1993. A few days later, the
skeletal remains of a woman - probably a woman - was
unearthed in Loma Blanca, another popular dump for
corpses.

Numbers are increasingly difficult to pin down as police
become more close-mouthed. Nevertheless, Juarez
sociologist Julia Monarrez documented 382 murders
between 1993 and 2003, of which 144 meet her
parameters for "systemic sexual feminicide, " which
includes torture and mutilation. She believes one or
more serial killers are at work in these cases, plus
copycats. Others put the numbers of dead women
closer to 500. Some victims remain desconocida,
unknown.

Guillermina founded Voces Sin Eco (Voices Without
Echo), pushed to have black crosses on pink
backgrounds painted around the city of 1.5 million and
helped organize marches. Hollywood took notice. On
Valentine's Day, 2004, thousands of women, among
them Jane Fonda, Sally Field and Christine Lahti,
demonstrated in Juarez. "Ni una mas! Not one more!"
Several films are in production, including Bordertown,
starring Jennifer Lopez as a journalist who investigates
a series of murders near American-owned factories on
the border.

It will be interesting to see how Bordertown handles the
story. There are no happy endings in Juarez. Another
Valentine's Day has passed and women still cower. "It's
okay to kill women in Juarez, " said maquila worker Aide
Ramirez, 38. There have been arrests and charges laid,
yet lawyers argue clients confessed under torture, a
common enough practice in Mexico where judges
routinely accept such "evidence."

One jailed suspect died under mysterious
circumstances; two lawyers were shot. Mario Escobedo
Anaya was gunned down by police in February 2002,
the night before he was to release purported findings
about the torture of his client. The official story said he
opened fire on state police after a high-speed chase.
Witnesses dispute the account and Juarez
photographer Miguel Parrea photographed Anaya's
SUV at the scene without bullet holes and, later in police
custody, with bullet holes.

Three weeks ago, a second lawyer, Sergio Dante
Almaraz, who claimed his client confessed under torture
to the 2001 "cottonfield murders" of eight women found
in pieces, was shot 12 times by assailants with AK-47s.
The Inter-American Human Rights Commission, based
in Washington and an arm of the Organization of
American States, of which Canada is a member, urged
the Mexican government to protect him in 2002 after he
received death threats.

Police have been criticized for dismal work. Frustrated
with inaction, the Gonzalez Flores family did their own
investigation, which led to one arrest, but they believe
accomplices have never been caught. "Nobody cares, "
said Guillermina. "Nothing has changed. There has
been no justice for my sister."

There's reason enough for police to be afraid. Rumours
that high-ranking officers are involved have always
swirled around the murders, as have stories that
prominent citizens - Los Juniors - kidnap and kill women
for sport.

These are rumours but what appears true is the
involvement in some of the crimes of the Juarez drug
cartel, an organization that prospered as the maquila
population exploded. Cartel boss Amado Carrillo
Fuentes - "Lord of the Skies" - supposedly died a few
years ago in a Mexico City hospital, after 14 hours of
plastic surgery. A trail of his doctors later turned up
dead in charred barrels in the Juarez desert, while he is
thought to be alive and flourishing with a new face.

"The narco-traffickers attract really dangerous elements.
They have a brotherhood mentality - blood in, blood out,
" said Candace Skrapec, the Canadian-born
criminologist who profiled the New York subway killer in
the 1980s and taught at the FBI Academy in Quantico.
Va. "It's business-as-usual because they wield so much
power, " said Skrapec, who was denied access to
critical files when she worked on the Juarez murders.
She counts narcos among the killers, as well as "groups
of men who have been murdering women for a long
time ... and absolutely, I believe police officers have
been involved" in some crimes.

Police are often cavalier. In 1999, while I was working
as the Toronto Star's Latin America bureau chief, senior
detectives with the Chihuahua state police in Juarez
dismissed several of the murdered girls to me as
"hookers, " hooting with laughter in an office blue with
cigarette smoke. They acted like it was a big joke. In
October, 2004, special federal prosecutor Maria Lopez
Urbina cited more than 50 police officers and public
officials for "negligence and ignoring evidence, " among
them officers I'd interviewed in 1999. Most citations
have been quietly expunged; some still have their jobs.

A series of governors in Chihuahua pledged action, as
has President Vicente Fox. But his special prosecutor
has proven to be toothless, according to critics, and
solutions have dissolved to dust. Three Mexican
presidents, Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo and Fox,
failed to declare the mutilation and murder of women in
Juarez a national emergency.

"The responses have been very misogynistic, very
sexist, which is scary, " said Mexican activist Lydia
Alpizar. "There is impunity and justice denied. Allowing
these crimes to continue means that killing women has
become the norm."

It could be, according to scant police information, that
murders have declined slightly. But criminologist
Maynes doesn't believe it, instead holding a chilling
scenario. He thinks the bodies are merely being
disposed of more efficiently.

Tactics evolved, said Maynes, from the authorities
denying and minimizing the murders to blaming victims
and scapegoating suspects. The next step was for
killers to hide the bodies. "I wonder how many more
bodies are still out there?" said Maynes. "The first
bodies were found out in the open, then they were
buried in shallow graves. Now I think they're going really
deep."

He conjures a vision of Mexico offering up from the
depths of her soul, her young and innocent to be
sacrificed, as surely as the ancients offered up
sacrifices to the gods before the Conquest or the
conquistadors slaughtered the Indians. In modern times,
the bloodletting is called "feminicide" and flows in Juarez
and Chihuahua and other places where women's lives
are cheap because they are allowed to be cheap.

"This is genocide, " Monarrez summed up bleakly.
"These women are being systematically murdered. We
women from the Third World, we are disposable. They
can do what they want with us."

Terrible, you might say. How awful. But beyond
compassion, what really has this to do with Canadians
so far away? There is sorrow enough at home.

But there are many links between Canada and Juarez,
beginning with almost everyone who buys or owns a
car. Juarez used to be a sleepy desert town, known for
partying American frat boys, bargain bazaars and the
occasional brush with fame. Beloved president Benito
Juarez found shelter here during 19th century wars and,
in the 20th century, flamboyant Pancho Villa took the
city from the federales during the Mexican Revolution.

Then came the maquila phenomenon. Global corporate
heavyweights rushed to Mexico's border free-trade
zones to take advantage of cheap labour, minimal taxes
and easy market to the U.S. and Canada. Their
legitimacy was enshrined in treaty by free trade in 1994.
Honeywell, DuPont, General Electric, Kenwood, Delphi,
Philips and Electrolux - all in Juarez. In an increasingly
integrated world, auto parts, for example, are
assembled by companies with plants in Canada, the
U.S. and Mexico, including Lear Corporation, Johnson
Controls, TRW Inc., Cooper, Siemens, Cummins Diesel.

None of the big automakers release data on the origin of
parts per vehicle. It's hard enough to track a tomato
from Mexico, let alone a car component.

But Bill Murnighan, national representative, research, for
the Canadian Autoworkers Union, says Canada
imported $2.7 billion in auto parts last year from Mexico.
"That's more than $1,000 worth of Mexican-made auto
parts in every vehicle built in Canada, " he said. His
estimate assumes parts are distributed equally among
each year's 2.62 million vehicles, which is "unrealistic -
but it does put the overall volume into perspective."

Canada is on the losing end of trade figures, according
to Murnighan, with last year's imports from Mexico up 5
per cent over the previous year and the highest on
record. His figures, which originate with Statistics
Canada, show that Canada exports 15 cents for every
$1 of imported car parts.

Of course, Canadian autoworkers fear losing jobs to
cheap-labour Mexico. But it's more than that, said
Murnighan, whose union supports a social justice fund.
"The social conditions in which these auto parts are
being made is an ongoing and big concern to our
union."

He believes "Canadians should be concerned about
how things they consume are being made and under
what conditions" and urges car-buyers to ask questions
about sourcing and to demand that auto giants improve
living and working conditions for Mexican employees,
who make $4.50 a day and subsist in shantytowns with
inadequate hydro, water and sanitation.

But what about murder? "These women weren't killed
because they were maquila workers, " said Monarrez.
"They were killed because they were women."

Yet the bodies of the cottonfield eight were found across
the street from maquila headquarters and criminologist
Skrapec asks: "Is it a coincidence or are (the killers)
sending messages to maquila managers?"

Lynda Yantz and Bob Jeffcott, directors of the Toronto-
based Maquila Solidarity Network, contend that
multinational corporations bear a share of responsibility
for the protection of employees who came here to work
for them. Moreover, security risks are magnified
because the maquilas pay negligible municipal taxes to
an ever-expanding city too strapped to provide proper
policing or even decent lighting.

"These murders keep happening and there has been no
action from the government or the maquila owners, "
said Yantz. "They want to sweep it under the rug. They
are worried only about their investment, not about lives
... Women are treated as if they are sub-human."

A sense of hopelessness prevails. Sagrario's family quit
the maquila after her murder. "For them it was no big
deal, " said Guillermina. "They just took another person
to replace her from the scores who were lining up for
jobs."

Do the maquila owners bear responsibility in this global
economy to workers outside their plant doors? "Since
many of the murdered women were employees of the
maquilas, I'd like to know if this is a concern for you and
if the maquilas take special measures to guarantee - or
at least to help - the security of their employees,
particularly women, " the Sunday Star wrote Jorge
Pedroza, director of the powerful Association of
Maquilas in Juarez.

He responded promptly: "The problem of the murdered
women of Ciudad Juarez is that the media is
responsible for the bad reputation of our city, to such a
degree that they themselves recognize the big problem
they've caused and don't know how to stop it."

He added that "a great number of the deaths were
crimes of passion or, like they say, jealous husbands,
while others were from natural causes ..."

He further blamed his city's bad name on "the need to
sell newspapers and journalistic cannibalism."

He failed to address the question.

Accountant Esther Chavez Cano began chronicling the
murders in 1993, evolving into an activist and founder of
the women's centre, Casa Amiga. She's frustrated with
political posturing while violence continues. "The lives of
women and girls are worth nothing, " she said.
"Absolutamente nada."
Waiting to see her on a recent morning was Julia
Camarena, 37, looking 60. To say her life has been
rough is a ludicrous understatement. Her children, three
girls and a boy, were systematically raped over two
years by a neighbour. He started with her littlest when
she was four. The man, a pensioner, 66, was convicted
and sentenced to 12 years in prison by the Chihuahua
Supreme Court in 2001.

Nothing happened. He lives in El Paso, a free man,
visiting Juarez frequently.

At the hillside grocery store, a little head pops up beside
Guillermina Gonzales. It's giggly Paula, 4, the reason
her mother put activism aside. But, all these years later,
she worries about her daughter's safety and about
another generation of potentially lost women. "I am
afraid she will be killed too ... What has it all been for?"

Outside, the winter wind moaned and I thought of the
story about a reporter who heard a voice in an interview
taped by the cottonfield crosses to honour the eight
women found there - Esmeralda, Barbara, Laura
Bernice, Lupita, Claudia Ivette, Brenda, Veronica and
Desconocida. Others swear they've heard it, too, over
the wind and dust storms - a faint voice wailing, "Mama,
Mama, ayudame, ayudame. Mama, Mama, help me,
help me."

				
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