December 1, 2005

Women’s murders rise in city on U.S.-Mexico border

By Tim Gaynor

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (Reuters) - The number of women
murdered in this notorious city on the U.S. border has surged
this year, despite a government effort to crack down on crime,
prosecutors said on Thursday.

More than 340 women have been strangled, beaten and stabbed
to death in Ciudad Juarez, south of El Paso, Texas, in a
12-year killing spree that has provoked outrage in Mexico and
abroad and led to calls for decisive government action to end
the crimes.

Chihuahua state prosecutors said 30 women and young girls
were murdered in the industrial city from January 1 to November
30, compared with 19 murders in all of 2004, when Mexican
President Vicente Fox created a special prosecutor's office to
probe the crimes.

Some killings have been particularly gruesome. A
2-month-old girl was sexually assaulted and murdered last

Rights groups in the past criticized authorities' handling
of the investigations, saying they were marred by inefficiency
and corruption.

But prosecutors said they had charged suspects in 80
percent of the murders committed this year and could not be
blamed for the sharp increase.

"Our job is not crime prevention. ... While the murder rate
has regrettably risen (in recent months), this year has been
the most effective to date for prosecutors," said Claudia Cony
Velarde, assistant attorney general in Juarez.

Various motives have been put forward over the years to
account for the murders, around a third of which involved rape
or sexual assault, but none has been widely accepted.

Some theories blame serial killers and rogue drug cartels,
but Velarde said about 80 percent of the recent murders fit a
pattern of "domestic or intrafamily violence."

"There isn't a serial killer loose on the streets. The
majority of the crimes were committed by someone from within
the victim's own household," she said.

One group working with victims' families broadly agreed
with Velarde's analysis, although they still hold serious
concerns about the way authorities have handled cases.

"The federal, state and city authorities do need to work
closely together to end impunity and solve the crimes, but a
real prevention campaign is needed in order to eradicate gender
violence," said Victoria Caraveo, who represents the families
of about 30 murder victims from the city.

"It's not enough just to advise women not to walk in dark
alleys or to tell them to keep their parents informed of their
movements. The causes run much deeper than that," she said.

Many victims were poor working mothers employed in
factories in the industrial city of 1.3 million people.