Undeterred by mounting death threats and intimidation, a group of mothers whose daughters have disappeared from Ciudad Juarez, traveled to Mexico City to mark International Women's Day with demands for justice for their missing loved ones and to mourn the mounting epidemic of violence toward women in Mexico.
The group known as the Committee of Mothers and Relatives of Disappeared Daughters has been a deep thorn in the side of Chihuahua State officials. The mothers hold them responsible for the fact that 98.5% of crimes in the state go unsolved and often uninvestigated, prolonging their uncertainty and their anguish.
The group has been demanding that authorities of the State Attorney General's Office identify and return the forensic remains of nearly 200 victims of femicides that have been piled up in the Ciudad Juarez morgue -- many for several years. Within the past 3 years, authorities have delivered the remains of only 6 victims to their families.
Walk for Life and Justice
Beatriz Alejandra Herna'ndez Trejo, 20 years old, went missing in 2010 from downtown Ciudad Juarez. Two years later her remains were recovered in the desert sands of the Juarez Valley desert -- a popular dumping ground for the victims of femicides. It would be another whole year until the authorities finally contacted her mother, Ana Trejo, and return what was left of her daughter --two bone fragments.
Karla CastaÃ±eda a member of the committee, a friend of Trejo and mother of Cinthia Jocabeth Alvarado CastaÃ±eda, who disappeared in 2009, said in an interview with the Juarez newspaper , El Diario,
"The only thing they could turn over were two little pieces of bone--that's all there is"there are no investigation results, nothing, they don't know anything. They had Alejandra for so many months and just now they are informing us that it is her"why, why?!"
The indignation and offense taken by the mothers for the government's indifference when it comes to the cases of their disappeared daughters, compelled them to march nearly 240 miles from Ciudad Juarez to the state capital, Chihuahua City. They demanded a meeting with Governor Ce'sar Duarte to guarantee the state's commitment to investigating disappearances and to speed up the process of identifying the victims of femicides.
The high-profile march -- called the "Walk for Life and Justice" -- began on Jan. 15 with little over two-dozen mothers and family members of the disappeared. They march of mostly women crossed the cold Chihuahua desert, which has seen more than 10,000 murders in the past 5 years, by foot. The mothers arrived in the state capital 7 days later to find that the Governor had left the state. The group had to return to Juarez.
"We left. It cost us a lot to get there and he wasn't even there. We had to return to Juarez because we'd been away from home for too much time in our search for justice for our daughters." explained CastaÃ±eda.
Days later the governor and local officials agreed to meet with the group. In a heated meeting in Juarez on Feb. 2, the mothers presented a six-point list of demands that requires the authorities to immediately hand over all information on the cases of their daughters, to make investigations transparent, and for investigations into the cases of the disappeared to be considered a priority and expedited.
At one point during the meeting, Ciudad Juarez Municipal President, He'ctor MurguÃa Lardiza'bal, lost control and showed exactly the kind of attitude the mothers were complaining about. "f*cking mothers! Let me speak!" he yelled, as the mothers pointedly expressed their grief and frustration to the officials.
Repression of Voices, Rejection of Justice
The Feb. 2 meeting ended with Governor Duarte publically pledging to fulfill the demands within 30 days. He also agreed to dismiss the State's Attorney General, Rosa MarÃa Sandoval Sa'nchez, within 10 days. In 2011 Sa'nchez was accused of directing death threats toward Manuel Garcia -- the former driver of slain anti-femicide activist, Marisela Escobedo -- for refusing to falsely incriminate Escobedo as a member of the Sinaloa drug cartel.
Yet impunity and a rejection of justice seem to be the only commitment being made by authorities. According to the legal representative of the Committee of Mothers of the Disappeared, Francisca Galvan, Duarte has failed to fulfill his promises. Sandoval Sanchez will reportedly remain in office as Attorney General and the group was only given a partial report with information related to the cases of their missing daughters, which--according to Galvan--"adds nothing to current investigations"..