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May-08-2010 16:47printcomments

Mother's Day Victory for Ciudad Juarez Women

Among the latest victims was 18-year old Esmeralda Bretado Perez, 7 months pregnant, killed May 4 on a soccer field.

Crosses like this represent the vast number of women who have died at the hands of abusers in Juarez, Mexico.
Crosses like this represent the vast number of women who have died at the hands of abusers in Juarez, Mexico.

(CIUDAD, Juarez) - On the eve of Mother’s Day 2010, relatives of women murdered in Ciudad Juarez and their allies chalked up another victory on the international front.

By a vote of 359 to 235, with 17 abstentions, the European Parliament approved an amendment to its strategic plan for Latin American relationships that cites an international court verdict on the Ciudad Juarez femicides.

In a May 6 action, the parliamentarians voted to incorporate as a guiding reference point the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ 2009 decision that held the Mexican state accountable for the slayings of three young women whose bodies were found in a Ciudad Juarez cotton field in November 2001.

In its sentence, the Costa Rica-based human rights court of the Organization of American States system ruled that Mexico violated the American Convention on Human Rights and the 1994 Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Belem Do Para Convention) by failing to prevent the slayings and properly investigate the crimes.

“States are obligated to establish general policies of public order that protect the population from criminal violence,” wrote Justice Diego Garcia-Sayan last year. “This obligation has progressive and decisive priority given the context of rising criminality in the majority of countries of the region.”

Sponsored by the Green Party fraction of the European Parliament, last week’s vote represented a victory over conservative forces within the political body which have attempted to downplay and side-step the issue of femicide in Mexico and Latin America.

Now folded into the European Union's diplomatic agenda, the amendment means the femicide issue will likely be raised at an upcoming summit of the heads of state of Latin America, the Caribbean and European Union scheduled for May 17 and 18 in Madrid, Spain.

“Mexico will have to respond to the grave situation of human rights in the country,” said Spanish Green Raul Romeva. “Very serious violations are taking place, and it is (government) institutions that are weakening fundamental rights. That’s why we must establish the bases for correcting this.”

In 2007, after intense debate, the European Parliament passed a resolution that condemned femicide in Mexico and Latin America. Publicly announced last December, the Inter-American Court’s sentence against the Mexican state is already having international repercussions.

On the same day of this year’s European Parliament vote, a seminar on the cotton field case was planned for the University of Chile in Santiago. Academics, students, representatives of civil society and family members of Esmeralda Herrera, one of the cotton field victims, were expected to attend. Cecilia Medina Quiroga, former president of the Inter-American Court, was on the list of invited participants.

Chilean researcher Ignacio Mujica Torres said the Ciudad Juarez cotton field case represented an important notch in the system of human rights protections in the Americas, and an advance in the Inter-American Court’s treatment of gender violence. Mujica said analysis and discussion of the Mexican government’s compliance with the sentence was an important task since the principles behind the Inter-American Court’s ruling could be extended and applied to the entire region.

According to the latest reports in the Ciudad Juarez and El Paso press, some of them based on statistics maintained by the Chihuahua state attorney general’s office (PGJE), at least 750 women were murdered in Ciudad Juarez and the neighboring Juarez Valley between the beginning of 1993, when women’s murders first began to get serious public attention, and the first week of May 2010.

However, El Paso author and journalist Diana Washington Valdez documented a greater number of murders of women in and around Ciudad Juarez from 1993 to 2005. If subsequent homicides reported in the press are added to Washington’s figures, then at least 808 women have been murdered between 1993 and the first week of May 2010, including 72 this year so far. In addition, scores of young women fitting the profile of earlier murder victims remain missing.

It’s important to point out that the above numbers do not include women’s murders during the same years in the state capital of Chihuahua City and other parts of the state, some of which might have been connected to events in Ciudad Juarez.

During the last two decades in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua, women were killed by abusive husbands and boyfriends, murdered by rapists, slain during the course of robberies or gang disputes, and gunned down by shadowy assassins. Citing PGJE sources, El Diario de Juarez reported last week that about 80 percent of this year’s women’s homicides were connected to organized crime motives, with the remaining 20 percent linked to domestic and gender violence. According to the newspaper, this year’s profile of murders keeps with a pattern evident since 2008, when the so-called narco war erupted in Ciudad Juarez.

Among the latest victims was 18-year old Ciudad Juarez resident Esmeralda Bretado Perez, who was seven months pregnant when she was killed during a May 4 shooting at a soccer field. Like the cotton field and older femicide cases, the slaying of Bretado as well as the vast majority of recent women’s homicides remain unpunished.

In the cotton field case, the Inter-American Court handed out a 167-page sentence that lays out detailed remedies the Mexican government must follow to assure justice for victims’ families and curb future acts of violence against women in Ciudad Juarez and Mexico. As an adherent to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Mexico is obligated to comply with the ruling.


Source: Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico

Additional sources:

  •, May 4, 5 and 6, 2010. Articles by Gladis Torres Ruiz.
  • El Sur/Agencia Reform, May 6, 2010. Article by Inder Bugarin.
  • El Paso Times, May 7, 2010. Article by Daniel Borunda.
  • El Diario de Juarez, May 5, 2010.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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