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Juarez Slayings Report Finds Police Abuses

Originally published in:
El Paso Times

By Louie Gilot

Mexican federal investigators did not learn much about the killers of Juarez women from studying the first 50 files released to them by the Chihuahua state police, but unearthed what they said is proof of widespread police incompetence and abuse in the cases.

In a much-awaited report released Thursday in Mexico City, Maria Lopez Urbina, the special federal prosecutor appointed by Mexico President Vicente Fox, listed 81 Juarez police officers, including 17 detectives, who might have committed criminal or administrative violations.

Lopez based her findings on the review of files containing incomplete and unsigned statements, sometimes dated before the commission of the crime, and almost no forensic testing of evidence, she said.

Groups such as Amnesty International and the Mexican Human Rights Commission have come to the same conclusions in earlier reports, and some advocates said they were disappointed with the not-so-new findings.

"We all know that the police did not do their job in these cases. I guess it's nice that the federal government is now saying it. But we want to know who the killers are," Esther Chavez Cano, director of Casa Amiga, a Juarez rape crisis center, said.

Thursday's report is the fruit of four months of federal review and marks the beginning of what the federal government said would be a long involvement in the investigation in a 10-year-old string of murders of women that falls within the jurisdiction of the state of Chihuahua.

Starting in 1993, at a time marked by violent power changes in the drug underworld, about 300 women have been killed in this industrial border city. About 100 of them were raped, tortured, strangled and dumped in desert areas in and around the city.

This year, in which a new governor for the state of Chihuahua will be elected, Fox sent agents to shake up the Juarez drug cartel, which is said to be behind some of the killings of women. The president also appointed two women to look into the mysterious and brutal murders: Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Morfin as a special commissioner to advocate for women's and victims' rights.

Morfin addressed Fox at Thursday's presentation of the report, saying, "Mr. President, an extraordinary federal intervention is urgently needed."

Lopez said the federal government, which is already investigating 14 of the approximately 100 cases, found reasons to take on three more. The crimes must violate federal laws to fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government, and not all the murders of the women qualify.

Lopez's 174-page report concerns 50 homicide files dated between 1993 and 2001, most of which were attributed to domestic violence and solved by state police. One of the cases is that of a mentally ill man who killed his mother and another involves a woman who killed another woman in a bar fight.

"That is just what we were given first," said Sergio Medina, a spokesman for Lopez.

More studies will follow as the state police turn files over.

Lopez did praise the state police's recent handling of killings of women, such as that of Rebeca Contreras, who was found dead March 10 near a Juarez quarry. Police response in the case was "fast and efficient," she wrote.

Lopez also said she will start a definite database of women murder victims and of disappeared women to help identify bodies. Lopez's office has already funded a DNA database that now contains more than 80 samples from family members of women who have disappeared.

Louie Gilot may be reached at, 546-6131.; The Associated Press contributed to this story.