Harassment, Response to Juarez Mothers’ Demand for Justice

By  |  25 / February / 2013

After enduring the suffering of receiving the scarce and mutilated remains of one’s presumed disappeared daughter, families of disappeared women from Ciudad Juarez and the human rights defenders that accompany them now must also endure open harassment by state agents. They report that their homes have been raided, they have received threats and are under surveillance.

In late January, the Committee of Mothers and Relatives of Disappeared Youth from Ciudad Juarez walked more than 400 kilometers, only to be snubbed by [Chihuahua] state governor, César Duarte. They organized the “Walk for Life and Justice” through the cold Chihuahua desert to hold a public hearing with the presence of the governor to present a six-point petition on the subject of disappeared women in the border city. Instead, the governor decided to go to Chiapas to participate in the launching of President Peña Nieto’s National Crusade Against Hunger.

As if that wasn’t enough, Duarte also failed to attend a public hearing that he himself had proposed for Jan. 31 in Juarez. Finally, the meeting was held on Feb. 2 in Plaza Misión de Guadalupe, located in the city center. The hearing did not go smoothly. The Committee members expressed their anger and frustration at the failed promises of Duarte and other state officials, including the municipal president of Ciudad Juarez, Hector Murguia. At several points, Murguia lost his composure, launching insults at those present.

One of the primary demands of the Committee is for the government to hand over the estimated 200 teenage bodies that are currently in the custody of the authorities. These remains are being released [to families] at a trickling pace, which causes psychological torture for those in search of their daughters.

The agreement resulted in two initial agreements: a restructuring of the Attorney General’s Office that will prioritize cases of the disappeared, and to allow families to participate in the work of finding their loved ones. Under pressure from the Committee,  the governor also promised to provide an update on investigations in the case of Brenda Berenice Castillo within 10 days. Castillo is one of the Committee’s daughters, who was reportedly spotted in Los Angeles, California, on a television program that aired on May 18, 2011.

However it seems that once again, 20 years into the public emergency of the disappeared and murdered women in Juarez, state and municipal authorities are more interested in giving the impression of action than in effective solutions. On Feb. 10 the Committee released a public statement denouncing the harassment that some of its members have faced and threats made to people close to the members. Committee members have also suffered house raids, threatening anonymous phone calls and surveillance by the local police.

The case of Karla Castañeda, mother of Cinthia Jocabeth Castañeda who disappeared in Oct. 2008, is a particularly serious example. Authorities attempted to raid her home three times after she participated in organizing the Walk for Life and Justice and stood up to confront the governor during the public hearing. The first of the attempted raids took place Feb. 4 by municipal police who videotaped her with one of her sons. The second attempt occurred the following day at 3 AM, when local police tried to cut the fence around her property. A neighbor witnessed the attempt, which prompted the agents to flee. The third occasion was on Jan. 9 at 11am. In an action coordinated between the Prosecutors Office and the State Police, officers entered Castañeda’s home when she was not there, detained her mother-in-law, Juana Garcia, and stated openly that they were looking for Karla for having had dug “too deep” in the search of her daughter.

Castañeda also received several phone calls. On April 6, voices purporting to speak on behalf of Governor Duarte offered her a private meeting in the state capital of Chihuahua. Hours later, another member of the Committee received a phone call in which a person with a foreign accent told her that they needed to listen very carefully, and threatened to “take the life” of a family member.

The Committee also reported that Marcos Espinoza Rendon, a member of #Yosoy132 of Ciudad Juarez, received death threats by telephone from a woman who didn’t reveal her identity and through chat messages on his Facebook account. In both cases, the anonymous individuals said they heard a recording of a commander ordering to “give him killer”. In the following days, Marcos was followed constantly by police in the days after the threats.
The Committee’s statement also established that previous events of harassment against Marcos occurred due to his participation in demanding clarification in the investigations and DNA tests of the remains of Idaly Juache Laguna and Guadalupe Pérez Montes, two young women who had disappeared. In January of 2012, the Marcos’ mother received four phone calls in one day from a Mexico City area code. The callers said they were looking for Marcos because they “had business to settle with him.” During the month of March, he was photographed from a moving vehicle and approached in the city center by a man who didn’t identify himself, but who said that his boss “who was very powerful” requested that he observe him [Marcos] and that he should be careful.

Given these events, the Committee of Mothers and Relatives of Missing Juarez Youth demands an immediate end to harassment and death threats against its members and members of social justice organizations that participated in the Walk for Life and Justice. They also demand that the authorities openly explain in detail the reasons behind the illegal raids on the home of Karla Jocabeth Castañeda Alvarado, and the reasons behind the constant harassment conducted by members of the municipal and state police.

They also demand investigations and punishment for those who are determined responsible for committing acts that violate the human rights of victims or members of solidarity organizations. The Committee set a deadline of Feb. 12 for explanations to these questions and information on the case of Brenda Berenice Castillo.

Finally, the Committee demands that the State guarantee the safety of its members and members of solidarity organizations. This is considered a minimum condition to carry out public dialogue with authorities. If any incident occurs that threatens the safety of the Committee, the solidarity organizations and their families, the committee noted it will hold the authorities responsible.

Originally published at Desinformémonos.

Desinformémonos is an “autonomous, global communications project” and sister organization to the Americas Program. It covers grassroots movements throughout the world and the ideas and aspirations behind them.

Translation: Clayton Conn