VOS VOIX

The Killing Fields of Juarez

JUAREZ, MEXICO – It was the brutality with which they killed the young women that first caught my attention. That winter’s day of 1999, I stayed up into the early morning hours reading narratives that described death after horrible death. Despite what the Mexican authorities said, the murders were not normal. And, they were many.
Dating back to 1993, girls in their adolescent and teenage years suffered unspeakable atrocities, including gang rape and mutilation. Between 1993 and 2005, approximately 470 girls and women died violently in Juarez, Mexico – far more than the 379 deaths the Mexican Federal Attorney General reported for that period. They were killed in various ways: strangled, stabbed, bludgeoned, shot to death. Dozens more are missing.

Janeth Fierro, one of the early victims, was only twelve years old in 1994 when she was abducted. The authorities recovered her strangled body and determined she had been raped. In September 1995, the body of Silvia Rivera Morales, a seventeen year-old student, was dumped in Lote Bravo, just south of the Juarez International Airport.

Her right breast was severed and her left breast mauled by human teeth. That was the year authorities discovered the bodies of several other young women at the same site. All of them were killed with the same ferocity.

Seventeen-year-old Sagragrio Gonzalez Flores disappeared in April of 1998, after finishing her shift at a maquiladora. Later, someone passing by a grassy patch in another part of Juarez saw her body and called the police. The site was about ten miles east of her assembly plant, where hundreds of men and women turned out electronics components by the thousands.

She, too, had been raped, stabbed and strangled. In 1996, more bodies were discovered in the northwest desert region known as Lomas de Poleo. During a visit to Juarez in March 1999, FBI profilers analyzed the Mexican case files for Lote Bravo and Lomas de Poleo. The FBI sent the experts a month after U.S. President Bill Clinton and Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo met in Merida, Mexico.
The Pact: The president announces a new deal“The president said the purpose of the meeting was to announce the ‘new deal’ and its terms.” Some of the people already had some background and quickly explained a few details to the professional. They told him Chihuahua state had been “sold” to the Colombian cartel and, like the spoils of war, the state had been divided into several territories.

The president said “unimaginable sums of money” were to be made as a result of this pact. Soon after that, someone took out a piece of paper with a list of names on it and asked that it be passed around for everyone to look at before leaving. “The president said the new pact with the Colombians had certain conditions and come what may, one of them was (for law enforcement) not to interfere with any of the people on the list. They were ‘untouchables.” The names on the list included drug traffickers, powerful families, and prominent men that Mexican federal investigators implicated in the Juarez femicides.

The professional, who suddenly felt out of place, was astounded that everyone in the room seemed to take it all in stride.

“This was not done with any kind of subtlety,” the professional said. “They passed around that paper with the names on it in a very clumsy manner, and the group was told in no uncertain terms: ‘Don’t let it occur to you to do anything to any of these people.” No one at the party acted surprised, and no one spoke out or asked any questions about the instructions.
RamificationsThe professional was shaken to his core by what he witnessed. He understood at once that disclosing to the wrong people what had taken place that day would mean certain death. A range of emotions set in: fear, disgust, anger, grief. He knew instinctively the pact the former president described would set in motion a horrible future for the state of Chihuahua. When he went home that day, the professional wept.

“We were afraid of the Colombian drug dealers because we knew they were bloodthirsty. Some of them were known to practice human-sacrifice rituals,” he said. “At least Rafael Aguilar [the drug lord who preceded Amado Carrillo Fuentes] was from Chihuahua state. He had family roots in Mexico, and he cared to an extent about what happened in his home. Now we were going to be at the mercy of the Colombians.”
The new crime bossesThe pact had profound implications for the state’s border region. It sealed the fate of hundreds of men and women for years to come. It condemned Juarez to a dark era marked by terror, abductions, torture, mutilations, rapes and murders. It covered the kidnappings and violent murders of young women because it guaranteed impunity for the perpetrators. People who were involved in laundering money or other support services for the Carrillo Fuentes cartel were exempt from arrest and prosecution. The cartel sacrificed those who got out of line. Police officers were transformed into bodyguards and enforcers for the drug dealers.

This truly was a pact with the devil, and it was sealed in blood. From the representatives who were at the politician’s house that day, it appeared that the cartel had succeeded in corrupting all of the important institutions of the community.

Note de l'éditeur

[The entire texts for the English and Spanish versions of the book is provided for viewing as pdf documents by special arrangement with the author.]

Excerpts from The Killing Fields: Harvest of Women (Peace; 2006), by Diana Washington Valdez, Prologue and Chapter 32; by permission from the publisher.




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