Woman's body found in Mexican border city

Discovery renews fears of a pattern of killings

December 04, 2004|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

MEXICO CITY - The body of a young woman was discovered yesterday in a busy intersection in downtown Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, renewing concerns among human rights groups in that border city that the decade-long pattern of such killings continues.

Authorities in Chihuahua state, where Juarez is located, played down any link between the latest victim, who appeared to have been strangled, and the sex slayings of almost 100 women in Juarez and its environs since 1993.

"The woman is between the ages of 24 and 27, and our initial autopsy shows that she was strangled," said Claudia Elena Banuelos Mendoza, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office in Juarez. "At this point, we don't know whether she was sexually assaulted, too. The case remains under investigation, and we should know more tomorrow."

Ramon Valdez, a municipal police spokesman, said the body was found at the corner of Guatemala and Hermanos Escobar streets and showed signs of sexual assault.

The slaying brings to 18 the number of women killed in the area this year. The body of another woman was discovered Nov. 25 on the outskirts of Juarez.

Over the past 11 years, more than 340 women have been killed in the area, with state and federal authorities attributing most of those killings to domestic violence.

The killings, dubbed "feminicides," have drawn international attention, with U.S. lawmakers calling for hearings on the investigation into the crimes, criticized as "shoddy" or "corrupt" by U.S. authorities and U.N. officials.

Foreign and Mexican rights groups continue to pressure President Vicente Fox's government to solve the crimes and punish the killers. The government has responded by naming a special human rights commissioner and special prosecutor.

So far, 130 U.S. House members and 12 senators have endorsed a resolution calling on the Fox government to do more to stop the killings.

"Young women are still getting raped and murdered with impunity and alarming frequency in Juarez," said Laurie Freeman, Mexico associate in the Washington Office for Latin America, or WOLA.

In Juarez, nongovernmental organizations said the latest case underscores the continuing vulnerability of women.

"This is horrible and very sad," said Esther Chavez Cano, a veteran human rights activist and director of Casa Amiga. "Juarenses remain indignant knowing that the killings continue, that impunity is still a way of life here, that anyone can walk in here and kill a woman, someone's daughter, because they know they remain untouchable."

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