Justice group addresses Juarez murders

by Kelsey Noonan | 10/20/04 5:00am

Collis Common Ground overflowed Tuesday to hear the International Caravan for Justice speak on the hundreds of women kidnapped, tortured, raped and murdered in the Mexican border town of Juarez.

Since 1993, 437 women have been kidnapped or murdered in Juarez, and the problem has extended to neighboring Chihuahua in recent years. Located across the border from El Paso, Texas, both towns are notorious for their prostitution rings, drug cartels and corrupt government officials.

Primarily Mexican, victims have also included six American citizens, and the most recent attack occurred on Oct. 7 of this year.

Speakers at the Dartmouth benefit included Soledad Aguilar, the mother of Cecilia Cobarrubias Aguilar, who was murdered in 1995.

Cecilia Aguilar disappeared with her 27-day-old daughter on the way to the pediatrician one day in 1995. Despite desperate pleas from her mother, local officials refused to file a report or search for her. She was found raped and murdered three days later with two gunshots in her back. A farmer found her body by coincidence, although Cecilia Aguilar's newborn daughter was never found. In the past nine years, no investigation has been raised.

With pressure from Soledad Aguilar, Cecilia Aguilar's body has been exhumed twice for DNA data. Both times local officials have lost the evidence. Police officials removed the female genitalia of the corpse, and the autopsy report listed Cecilia Aguilar's case as the murder of a male.

Soledad Aguilar visibly struggled to discuss her daughter's murder and at one point was unable to continue.

"What I feel is the pain, the impotence, because of the impunity the officials have. There is no justice," said Soledad Aguilar.

Lucha Castro, the lawyer to Soledad Aguilar and many of the other victims' mothers, spoke at the benefit as well. She cited other cases of police corruption. In one instance, federal police officers kidnapped three women, only one of whom survived their subsequent rape and torture. When Castro presented her case in court, the judge denied the order for the officers' arrest. According to the official report, "despite the fact that there is evidence, one can not consider that there was a crime because she was a prostitute."

It is a nightmare, Castro said, that no one seems to be able to stop.

Professor Irasema Coronado of the University of Texas at El Paso translated for the other speakers. She also stressed the government's corruption and lack of responsibility in the cases.

Macrina Cardenas de Alarcon, the Legislative Coordinator of the Mexico Solidarity Network, urged Dartmouth to help: "As we speak, there are many women in danger," she said. "But you can help, you can be a part of the solution."

Attendees at the benefit were urged to sign letters to the president and local governor in Mexico, and donations were solicited at the door.

Vanessa Vega '05, a principal organizer of the event along with Monica Barrera, has arranged for an alternative spring break trip to Juarez through the Tucker Foundation. Similar programs are being started at Middlebury and other schools, and Vega hopes for a collaborative effort in the future.

All four speakers from the benefit will continue to tour the country in an effort to raise awareness about the violence in Juarez and Chihuahua.