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domingo, junio 10, 2007

Mexico Week In Review: 06.04-06.10


Published since 1994, 'Mexico Week In Review' is a service of the
Committee of Indigenous Solidarity (CIS). CIS is a Washington, D.C.
based activist group committed to the ongoing struggles of Indigenous
peoples in the Americas. CIS is actively supporting the struggles
of the Indigenous peoples of Mexico while simultaneously combating
related structures of oppression within our own communities.

To view newsletter archives, visit:

"Para Todos, Todo; Para Nosotros Nada"


Nineteen Mexican soldiers were sent to a military prison after troops
allegedly killed two women and three children whose vehicle failed to
stop at an army checkpoint, the Defense Department said. The shooting
in the Pacific state of Sinaloa is the latest case of suspected abuse
by soldiers deployed by President Felipe Calderon in a national
offensive against powerful drug cartels. The family was traveling to
a funeral when they were ordered to stop at the checkpoint near the
village of La Joya, according to local media. When they failed to
stop, soldiers reportedly opened fire on the van. Police identified
the dead as Alicia Esparza Parra, 17; Griselda Galaviz Barraza, 25,
and Galaviz Barraza's children Joniel, 7; Griselda, 4, and Juana, 2.
Three other civilians in the van were wounded.

Mexico's Defense Department said in a news release that three
officers and 16 enlisted personnel were being held at a prison in the
city of Mazatlan pending an investigation by military and civilian
authorities into the killings. Sinaloa Gov. Jesus Aguilar lamented
the shooting, but said the army will remain in the state "to
safeguard the security of its citizens."

Calderon has sent more than 24,000 soldiers and federal police to
battle heavily armed drug gangs blamed for more than 1,000 deaths
this year, including dozens of victims who have been decapitated and
had their heads displayed in public places. Drug gunmen have also hit
the military, ambushing and killing five soldiers in coordinated
attack last month in Calderon's mountainous home state of Michoacan.
In the days following the ambush, soldiers were alleged to have held
four teenage girls from a nearby village hostage as they beat and
raped them, according to the government-run National Human Rights
Commission. The Defense Department said it will cooperate in an
investigation into that incident. Last week, soldiers shot dead a
27-year old man after he refused to stop at a military checkpoint
near the border city of Nuevo Laredo, across from Laredo, Texas,
police said.

Source: Associated Press: 06/04


Cardinal Norberto Rivera, Mexico's most senior Roman Catholic
clergyman, will be questioned by lawyers and may have to appear in a
U.S. court over accusations he protected a priest wanted for sexually
abusing children, Rivera's spokesman said. Rivera, who was considered
an outsider candidate to succeed Pope John Paul II, will be
questioned in Mexico City in coming weeks, spokesman Hugo Valdemar
said. Rivera may have to appear in a Los Angeles court to defend
himself against accusations he conspired to protect the priest, who
is wanted for raping dozens of children in the United States and

In September, lawyers for former altar boy Joaquin Aguilar Mendez,
who says he was raped by Father Nicolas Aguilar in Mexico in 1994,
named Rivera along with Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles in a
U.S. civil lawsuit. The suit accuses the cardinals of obstructing
justice, negligence and conspiracy to help the priest escape. Rivera
denies the accusations and says the Los Angeles court has no
jurisdiction over him. Lawyers for the plaintiff say that by
questioning Rivera in Mexico they can prove the court has the right
to hear the case.

Rivera is accused of sending Father Nicolas Aguilar to Los Angeles to
avoid an abuse scandal in Mexico. Mahony is accused of allowing the
priest to flee back to Mexico after a U.S. warrant was issued for his
arrest. In a sworn affidavit, Rivera said he had used secret church
code in a letter to tell Mahony that Father Aguilar was homosexual,
but that he had no knowledge of the pedophilia accusations. Mahony
denies having ever received such a letter.

Jeff Anderson, an attorney for plaintiff Aguilar Mendez, called
Rivera's declaration "extraordinary." "Either one or both of them is
lying. It is the first time that cardinals under oath have pointed
the finger at one another," he said. Valdemar said Anderson and the
Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, which helped
bring the lawsuit, were "immoral" and trying to destroy the Catholic
Church. Valdemar said if the court decided it had jurisdiction,
Rivera would be happy to give evidence in Los Angeles. "We would not
have a problem with going to the court because we have evidence that
proves the cardinal's innocence," he said.

The U.S. Catholic Church has been tarnished by a pedophile priest
scandal that erupted in Boston in 2002 and spread to dioceses across
the nation. The church has spent millions of dollars to settle
lawsuits stemming from the scandal.

Source: Reuters: 06/05


As many as 67 percent of Mexican women over 15 years of age have been
victims of some kind of violence, the National Poll on Dynamics of
Home Relations revealed. Though violence against Mexican women has
decreased in recent years, it is still very high, with manifestations
in the community, family, schools, workplaces, and couple relations,
the president of the National Statistics, geography, and Informatics
Institute, Gilberto Calvillo, stated.

The states of Jalisco, Mexico, and the Federal District record the
highest number of female victims of violence, at 78 percent, while
Chiapas (48.2 percent) and Zacatecas (56.5) report the lowest
figures. To face that problem, he stated, it is imperative to bring
forward a legislative process from the national to state levels, and
implement public prevention policies, support the victims, and punish
the people responsible.

Source: Prensa Latina: 06/06


Nearly six years after the discovery of eight murdered young women in
a Ciudad Juarez cotton field stunned the world, growing doubts
surround Mexican authorities' accounts of the crimes. Two previous
cases against alleged murderers unraveled amid revelations of
tortured suspects, fabricated evidence, bizarre stories of organ
trafficking, misidentified victims, the murders of two defense
attorneys, and the suspicious death of one suspect. Now the Chihuahua
Office of the State Attorney General (PGJE), the agency charged with
the investigating the crimes, is moving ahead with legal charges
against the third round of suspects in the cotton field case. In an
interview with Frontera NorteSur, Chihuahua State Attorney General
Patricia Gonzalez contended that three young men from Ciudad Juarez,
Francisco Granados, Alejandro Delgado and Edgar Alvarez, embarked on
a drug and alcohol-splashed killing spree of young women that began
in the 1990s.

While holding that satanic worship could have been a motive in the
slayings, Gonzalez denied that the ECCO computer school, which some
family members of victims from both Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua City
suspect of involvement in femicide, had anything to do with the
Ciudad Juarez crimes. "This case is more related to street-level drug
dealing," Gonzalez said. "These young men worked for an individual
who distributed drugs in small quantities in a sector of Ciudad
Juarez." Gonzalez declined to name the shadowy drug dealer, adding
that authorities are attempting to detain two more suspects in the
crimes. Past PGJE spokespersons, including former Special Prosecutor
Suly Ponce, denied that drug dealing had anything to do with the
women's murders.

Gonzalez charged that the current suspects randomly offered rides to
young women on the street, sexually attacking and then stabbing their
victims to death before dumping the bodies in the cotton field
located across the street from the headquarters of Ciudad Juarez's
Maquiladora Civil Association. Situated in the city's so-called
"Golden Zone," the cotton field sits in a heavily transited area. In
addition to the 2001 cotton field murders, Gonzalez's office is
linking the latest suspects to the Lote Bravo, Lomas de Poleo, and
Cristo Negro serial murders that ravaged Ciudad Juarez from 1995 to
2003. All three suspects named by Gonzalez were teenagers at the time
of the 1995 Lote Bravo killings. A PGJE power point presentation
about the case against Alvarez and his friends includes the names of
1995 murder victims Olga Alicia Carrillo Perez and Silvia Elena
Rivera Morales as among the possible victims of the suspects.
Initially, the PGJE tied the late Egyptian national Abdel Latif
Sharif Sharif to the Carrillo and Morales murders. Asked if the
inclusion of the names of Carrillo and Morales in the PGJE's
investigation meant that Sharif was innocent of the crimes, Gonzalez
said that because Sharif's case was before her time she had no
knowledge of his alleged victims. Maintaining his innocence, Sharif
died in a Chihuahua City prison last year while serving a 1995
sentence for the murder of Elizabeth Castro in a conviction critics
have challenged.

At a public presentation sponsored by the Santa Fe Rape Crisis and
Trauma Treatment Center, held in New Mexico's capital city on
Mother's Day weekend of 2007, Gonzalez credited various US agencies,
including the FBI, for permitting her current murder investigation to
proceed. At the time of Edgar Alvarez's arrest in Colorado last
summer, Tony Garza, the Bush Administration's ambassador to Mexico,
announced a major step forward in resolving the eight murders, and
Alvarez was quickly deported to Mexico. Granados, who is jailed on an
immigration law violation in the United States, gave a tape-recorded
confession to the Texas Rangers last year that led to Alvarez and
Delgado. Gonzalez attempted to play a portion of the confession to
the Santa Fe audience but the audio failed to deliver. "The important
thing for us is that this is an investigation that flows from the
investigation that North American authorities also are directly
realizing," Gonzalez later said in an interview. "No type of pressure
existed. We're working the technical and scientific evidence. Jose
Francisco Granados' home produced physical evidence of women's
clothing, and other implements including purses, women's shoes, [and]
cosmetics. All this is being processed in our forensic laboratory. We
even managed to obtain a genetic profile from the Cristo Negro site
that we will compare with the genetic profiles of Francisco Granados,
Edgar Cruz, Alejandro, and the other two individuals whose detention
is pending."

Critics Slam the PGJE's Case

The PGJE's account of the cotton field killing is strikingly similar
to the same department's original but later discredited version of
how bus drivers Victor Garcia and Gustavo Gonzalez allegedly killed
the women. In the original case, Garcia and Gonzalez were accused of
randomly kidnapping women, raping their victims and then beating them
to death with bats. Both men were allegedly high when they committed
the crimes, though toxicology tests contradicted the state's
assertions. The basic difference in the latest PGJE case is that the
alleged perpetrators supposedly used knives to kill their victims.

Sally Meisenhelder, an organizer for the Las Cruces-based Friends of
Juarez Women, a non-governmental organization that has worked closely
with victims' families, doesn't give credence to the PGJE's latest
case. "It's the same old stuff, and now there is whole new set of
scapegoats," Meisenhelder said. Other knowledgeable sources strongly
disputed the PGJE's claims of how the murder victims found in the
cotton field were killed. "The official position is absurd,"
contended Mexican criminologist Oscar Maynez, who headed the PGJE
department that supervised the 2001 examinations of the eight
victims. According to Maynez, the decomposed nature of the bodies,
many of them just bones, made determining the cause of death
difficult. While investigators found no evidence of stab marks on
bones of victims, Maynez told Frontera NorteSur that they detected
signs that some of the victims could have been strangled to death, a
pattern in scores of other killings. An upcoming report from the
highly respected Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, which has
spent nearly two years examining the remains of Ciudad Juarez and
Chihuahua City femicide victims, is expected to draw similar

Maynez quickly dismissed Attorney General Gonzalez's contention that
the lack of identifiable stab wounds in the corpses was caused by the
way the presumably substance-impaired killers cut into sensitive
organs like the heart. "They are saying that these people are better
than surgeons," Maynez said. "The (fabrication) of scapegoats is
becoming more sophisticated. They are trying to feed the evidence
into the story." Maynez discounted the possibility that Alvarez and
his street buddies, who reportedly struggled with drug, emotional,
job and marriage problems, had the capacity to hide, transport and
then dump numerous bodies over an eight-year period without being
detected. "You are talking about 16-year-old kids, who had no money
and were consuming drugs, killing women and somehow [they] didn't get
caught," he said. "I'm sure they weren't involved in the cotton field
murders." The former PGJE official added, "US officials have to look
closely at this case and not take my word for granted. This is very
serious. Behind the murders is a very organized, resourceful

The PGJE's case shows other signs of coming apart. Media reports
place key suspect Alvarez in Colorado during many of the women's
disappearances and murders attributed to the migrant. Last February,
"protected witness" Alejandro Delgado publicly recanted. Delgado
charged that he was physically manhandled, isolated and threatened by
Chihuahua state police officers. In statements to Ciudad Juarez
reporters, Delgado declared that Granados and Alvarez were both
innocent, and that he made up the murder story under pressure from
Chihuahua state policemen who had isolated him away from his home.
Almost immediately after making his denunciation, Delgado was
arrested by the PGJE and charged with murdering 16-year-old Silvia
Gabriela Laguna Cruz in 1998. A judge quickly threw out the charge as

Gonzalez denied that Delgado was forcibly isolated or slapped with a
trumped-up charge for complaining to the press. "Alejandro Delgado
said that he was really afraid of Edgar Alvarez's family and that he
wanted to be protected," Gonzalez said. "He was with us a protected
witness until his wife got mad and wanted him to go home. In our
opinion, Edgar Cruz's defense picked (Delgado) once he got home to
get Edgar Cruz off the hook." Then there is the matter of Francisco
Granados' sanity. The allegedly repentant mass murderer reportedly
engaged in unusual behaviors like talking to the devil ever since he
was a teenager. While acknowledging that Granados could be lying,
Gonzalez affirmed that authorities are conducting tests to determine
the truthfulness of the suspect's statements. Still, Gonzalez was
confident that, until now, corresponding evidence has established the
"reliability of this man."

Questions hang over the authorities' version of the alleged
randomness of how the victims were selected. Three of the cotton
field victims had some sort of relationship with the privately-owned
ECCO computer school in Ciudad Juarez, as did several other femicide
victims in Chihuahua City to the south, an intercity "coincidence"
that has not publicly come up at all in the cases against Granados,
Alvarez and Delgado. Patricia Cervantes, the mother of Neyra Azucena
Cervantes, a 2003 Chihuahua City murder victim who worked and studied
at the successor institution of ECCO, said in an interview that she
has not been questioned by the PGJE about any possible connections
between her daughter's murder and the cotton field case. Cervantes
expressed surprise at the state's current case, adding that she has
not seen any news of the prosecutions in the Chihuahua City media. If
the official version of the cotton field crimes is correct, it means
that numerous victims who came into contact with ECCO, a minuscule
educational institution operating in a population pool of more than 2
million persons in two different places, somehow wound up in the
clutches of serial killers in different places and at different times
from early 2001 to early 2003. Several years ago, ECCO spokesmen
denied any involvement in crimes to the border-region news media.

Pinning the murders on Alvarez and company closes the door on other
possible suspects in the serial killings, including police officers.
A 2003 US State Department cable about the Cristo Negro slayings,
obtained via the Freedom of Information Act by Keith Yearman, an
assistant professor of geography at DuPage University in Illinois,
noted the lingering suspicions of official complicity in the
femicide. "Authorities report they are following several
investigation leads, including one of possible police involvement in
the disappearances, but no progress has been reported," stated the
cable. Yearman, who is waiting to receive documents from the FBI,
said that a similar request for documents from the US Central
Intelligence Agency related to the cotton field case and other
women's slayings in Ciudad Juarez was turned down on national
security grounds.

US Support Shores Up the PGJE

Claiming no party affiliation, Patricia Gonzalez was elected to her
post in a 2004 multi-partisan vote by the Chihuahua State
Legislature. The former judge has enjoyed a good rapport with sectors
of the women's and human rights communities. At the Santa Fe forum,
Maria Pilar Sanchez, director of Ciudad Juarez's Casa Amiga rape
crisis center, praised Chihuahua's state attorney general for "doing
things" and bringing "transparency" to the scene. Gonzalez's office
is undertaking an ambitious legal and police training reform program
in Chihuahua, planning, for example, to institute oral trials for the
first time. However, the legal case against the cotton field suspects
is proceeding in the traditional fashion of written statements
constituting the weight of evidence. Gonzalez's legal reform efforts
are encountering resistance from members of the old legal
establishment who are criticizing both the speed and character of the

In Santa Fe, Gonzalez insisted that she is purging the PGJE of bad
elements, but charged that her campaign is complicated by persistent
corruption in the Federal Agency of Investigations, Federal
Preventive Police, and Ciudad Juarez Municipal Police. Gonzalez
confirmed to Frontera NorteSur that she has received death threats,
specifically in connection to the investigation of men's homicides,
but has not suffered "any threats" in relation to the femicide probes.

US support is a cornerstone of Gonzalez's efforts. A US$5 million
grant from the US Agency for International Development is
underwriting much of the reform project. The Washington, D.C.-based
firm Management Systems International (MSI) manages the grant.
According to the non-profit Center for Public Integrity, MSI is a
privately owned foreign aid contractor that runs programs in Iraq,
Afghanistan, and other nations. Only days after Edgar Alvarez was
deported to Mexico last year, Ambassador Garza appeared in Ciudad
Juarez, where he praised Attorney General Gonzalez and Chihuahua
Governor Jose Reyes Baeza for opening a new forensic laboratory and
"implementing a new criminal justice system that is transparent and
fair, that protects human rights." Ambassador Garza's words
contrasted with the US State Department's internal discourse just a
few years earlier. The State Department cables obtained by Yearman
reveal that US authorities were fully aware of multiple episodes of
torture, corruption and killings attributed to PGJE personnel.

Assisted by the USAID funding, US border states are contributing to
the PGJE's makeover. Gonzalez's office, for example, has signed a
training and legal cooperation agreement with the New Mexico Office
of the Attorney General. In the run-up to the Santa Fe forum, the New
Mexico AG's office released a press statement noting the gravity and
cross-border significance of the femicide. So far, the New
Mexico-Chihuahua agreement doesn't include joint field
investigations. New Mexico Assistant Attorney General Maria
Sanchez-Gagne told Frontera NorteSur that no one from her office, to
the best of her knowledge, is involved in the cotton field
investigation. Sanchez-Gagne would not comment on past incidents of
violence and criminality involving PGJE agents, but defended the
cross-border reform program underway between New Mexico and
Chihuahua. "What I do know is that Chihuahua is moving forward to
change its criminal justice system," Sanchez-Gagne said. "They are
the first state to do this in Mexico, and we are applauding them and
assisting them to make this a more secure city and state."

A Border Femicide End Game?

Convictions of Edgar Alvarez and his friends in the cotton field case
and other women's murders could well mark the end game in many of the
Ciudad Juarez femicide [investigations]. High stakes exist for the
PGJE, Patricia Gonzalez, Mexican human rights guarantees, and US
Mexico policy, not to mention the accused suspects, victims' families
and society in general. On the international level, non-governmental
human rights organizations, the European Union, the United Nations,
the United States Congress, and the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights (IACHR) have all clamored to one degree or another for
justice. In the United States, the murders are likely to get renewed
attention when the movie Bordertown, which stars Jennifer Lopez and
Antonio Banderas, is released to commercial theaters later this year.

According to attorney Adriana Carmona of the Chihuahua City-based
Women's Human Rights Center, relatives of seven Ciudad Juarez and
Chihuahua City femicide victims are pursuing cases against the
Mexican government for human rights violations in the IACHR. While
the IACHR's recommendations are purely advisory, lawyers for victims'
families are studying the possibility of taking the cases to the next
level, to the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court for Human Rights,
which issues obligatory orders to member countries, including Mexico.
Four of the IACHR cases involve women that Alvarez and crew are
officially suspected of killing, but convictions of the current
suspects could help block or slow international legal action. If the
critics are on the mark, convictions of Alvarez and his old buddies
will mean that the real killers of women would once again go

Already, Mexican law guarantees impunity in a growing number of the
femicide cases. As the Washington Post noted in a recent article,
Mexican law has a 14-year statute of limitations on murder. The
newspaper mentioned several murders from 1993 whose prosecution time
has passed. On a campaign stop in Ciudad Juarez last year,
then-presidential candidate Felipe Calderon vowed to end impunity in
the women's killings. Meanwhile, sectors of the Mexican government,
media and industry are taking steps to wipe the memory of the cotton
field and other serial crimes, still legally unsolved, from the
public consciousness. Ciudad Juarez's identity as an industrial
border magnet that constantly draws new people to the city even as
older residents leave for the United States helps facilitate erasure.

Recently, the Office of the Federal Attorney General quietly withdrew
police officers it had long assigned to guard the cotton field.
Yearman finds irony in the pending relocation of the US Consulate to
a site close to the cotton field in Ciudad Juarez's "Golden Zone."
The relocation promises a bonanza for new businesses like hotels that
serve thousands of visa-seekers. "The (cotton field) is going to be
plowed over so we can expand the US diplomatic presence in Mexico,"
Yearman observed.

Source: Frontera NorteSur (FNS) Center for Latin American and Border
Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico 05/28

The above articles were originally published and copyrighted by the
listed sources. These articles are offered for educational purposes
which CIS maintains is 'fair use' of copyrighted material as
provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

end: Mexico Week In Review: 06.04-06.10

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