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(en) US, FIREBRAND* #2 - The International Caravan for Justice in Juarez and Chihuahua City The Firebrand Collective

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 10 Dec 2004 09:58:41 +0100 (CET)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
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> Background - The dangers and degradation of working in sweatshops
(maquiladoras), in cities such as Juarez, Chihuahua have
been well documented. But in this region along the Mexican-U.S.
border, across from El Paso, Texas, over 400 young women have been
murdered and up to 1000 have been reported missing.
How does the history and culture of Juarez play a role in these murders?
How does Mexico's relationship to the U.S. affect this culture?
Juarez is located across the border from El Paso Texas.
During prohibition in the U.S., many U.S. citizens
crossed the border to drink alcohol and visit the night-
clubs, casinos and brothels. This continued during World
War two with the soldiers stationed in El Paso. Today, the
large quantities of illegal narcotics that move into the U.S.
add to a degraded culture. Now, in addition to the illegal
drugs, prostitution, and alcohol, there is the maquiladora
industry. The Mexican people provide cheap labor for the
mostly U.S. owned factories that produce goods for the
U.S. market. The culture of drugs and prostitution, com-
bined with the degradation of poverty wages, creates a
culture of expendable people.
Juarez is home to the largest number of maquiladora
workers in Mexico. Approximately 300 maquiladoras
employ some 220,000 workers. The managers and engi-
neers, some 2,400 of them, commute from El Paso;
emphasizing the economic differences across the border.
The Mexican workers are mostly female, between 16 and
18 years old. Wages vary from $40 to $90 per week with
living costs equivalent to US border towns. The
maquiladoras create a class of female migrant workers
living in extreme poverty.
The free trade zones in Juarez, first established in the
1960's and extended through NAFTA in 1994 have built a
climate that undervalues the lives of workers. When the
agricultural sector bottomed out due to NAFTA policies,
young women from all over Mexico moved to the cities
for work. The maquiladoras, making huge profits, do not
protect their workforce. Some of the women murdered
were en route from home to work or vice versa in the
night or early morning. With safety measures and pre-
dictable release times, some of the murders could have
been prevented. The focus on profit and a culture of dis-
regard for the lives of Mexican women has been furthered
by free trade policies.
Corporations operating in Juarez include: Honeywell,
A.O. Smith, Philips, Avery, General Electric, Tyco,
Siemens, Delphi, Lear, Johnson & Johnson, Lexmark.
Instead of pressuring for corporate responsibility, the
Juarez government launched the "Ponte Vista" ("Be
Alert") campaign, which tells women to defend them-
selves from attackers and provides a whistle. The cam-
paign is based on the idea that women are solely respon-
sible for their safety-- in essence, the official mantra to
young women is "If anything happens to you, it's your

One Portlanders' Story
Dave King, a North Portlander, recently returned from
Juarez, Mexico where he attended a conference on
maquiladora workers. He said, "There were crosses in the
field representing the place where six bodies were
found." Three mothers spoke at the conference; one the
mother of a 12 yr. old. Her body was covered with ants
when they found her. Dave reported that, "The police
were cold as hell... with no support. The mothers are
screwed over and miserable. They get no official recog-
nition or support. One woman got up to talk, but couldn't
and sat back down."
Dave said that they give the workers less than $5.00 a
day and the women are charged for their own transporta-
tion and meals. He was surprised that the companies did
not charge them for the large sheets of discarded card-
board they use to make their houses.

The Investigation
Since the killing began, in 1993, none of the investiga-
tions have led to a satisfactory conclusion. Though many
people have been jailed and convicted of the crimes since
the killing began, none of the convictions have stopped
the terror. Those accused include: bus drivers, drug traf-
fickers, organ traffickers, an Egyptian national, maquila
photographers, etc. There is evidence that the women are
photographed in the maquiladoras before they are killed.
The crimes seem to become more solvable in election
years and the accused have stated that they were tortured
into confessing. Many feel the police themselves may be
involved because of corruption on the force, including
rape, murders, and drug trafficking. The killing contin-
ues; the most recent was Alma Brisa Molina Baca on July
24, 2004

Police policies also hinder the investigation. There will
not be an investigation unless the missing person is
deemed to be "kidnapped". Pounds of evidence have
been destroyed, and the DNA testing has been muddled
repeatedly. On several occasions, the wrong bodies were
tested. Facts known about the investigation lead to the
conclusion that some of the women were murdered by
serial killers.
Some believe the killer could be a border-crossing U.S.
citizen. In El Paso, sexual criminals are released into
halfway houses, and are living within a few miles of Juarez.
Mexicans deported from the U.S. for crimes often end up
in Juarez. The police in Juarez do not receive records of
this or the sex offenders released in El Paso.
The inability of the police to find the killer or killers per-
haps makes Juarez a targeted location for this type of
activity. Mexican laws add to this scenario, where vio-
lence against women is not punished. It is not illegal
for a man to rape his wife. In the state of Chihuahua
wife beating was legal until 2002. The missing person laws,
requiring a 72 hour waiting period are inadequate consider-
ing that the women are believed to be tortured and kept
alive before they are murdered.

The Fight for Justice
Mothers are re-victimized and pitted against each other
in the media. Some advocacy groups such as Voces Sin
Eco (Voices without Echo) have disbanded because of
such local media coverage portraying the dead as prosti-
tutes or drug traffickers. The sick media circus that can
accompany these cases is reprehensible. The "who done
it?" T.V. News melodramas, playing on the morbid human
interest in the cadavers of young women, only serves to
cloud the fight for justice.

Local Action
In Portland we showed international solidarity with a
rally and presentation on the October 20. The rally began
in the north park blocks. We also made connections local-
ly and recognize that work safety issues and domestic and
sexual violence are real threats for women in Portland as
For more information on International Solidarity events
such as the Women of Juarez tour, contact:
Portland Central America Solidarity Committee
616 E. Burnside, Portland, Oregon 97214
503.236.7916, <info@pcasc.net>Diane: A Portland Waitress

* The Firebrand Collective identifies itself as anarchist-communist.

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