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Women March for LivesSalem-News.com
“We are dead in life. What more could we lose?” - Karla Castaneda, mother of missing 13-year-old girl
(LAS CRUCES, NM) - Sub-freezing temperatures and physical pain aren’t stopping a group of mothers from demanding answers about their murdered and disappeared daughters in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua. On the eve of a weather disaster declared by the federal government, the Walk for Life commenced January 15 in Ciudad Juarez. Formed by a core group of 15 victims’ relatives and their close supporters, the march is making its way on foot and by vehicle the more than 200 miles from the border city to the state capital of Chihuahua City.
The latest of countless protests staged by relatives of murdered and missing young women in Chihuahua, the Walk for Life kicked off after the burial last week of Beatriz Alejandra Hernandez Trejo, who disappeared in Ciudad Juarez while reportedly going on a job interview in April 2010. Although Hernandez’s body was recovered from the rural Juarez Valley in 2012, her remains were not released to her family until this month. Hernandez was among at least 14 young women fitting a similar profile whose remains were found in the Juarez Valley since 2009 and, in several cases, withheld from their families for prolonged periods of time.
“Justice is what we ask of the Governor,” an aunt of Hernandez’s was quoted at the funeral for the young woman. “They didn’t kill a dog. They killed a woman with two children who were left with absolutely nothing.”
The participants in the Walk for Life demand that Chihuahua Governor Cesar Duarte’s administration identify the remains of all victims piled up in the morgue, and take other concrete steps to get to the bottom of disappearances and unresolved, suspected femicide cases.
“We are dead in life. What more could we lose?” said Karla Castaneda, mother of Cinthia Jocabed Castaneda Alvarado, a 13-year-old Ciudad Juarez girl who vanished while going to exchange shoes back in October 2008. “With the disappearances of our daughters, we mothers became lawyers, investigators and even psychologists, because the (women’s crimes) prosecutor’s office doesn’t function; we know more than them.”
Joining Castaneda on the long, bitterly cold trek were other victims’ relatives including Jose Luis Castillo, the father of a disappeared Ciudad Juarez teen who waged a high-profile campaign for his missing love one before he was suddenly arrested along with his son last April and accused of the armed robbery of a Ciudad Juarez massage parlor several years ago. The distraught father was known for disrupting public events where officials appeared in order to get answers and action on the disappearance of his young daughter Esmeralda. Recently freed by a judge, Castillo and son were singled out for retaliation, supporters maintained .
Norma Ledezma, coordinator of the Chihuahua City-based non-governmental organization Justice for Our Daughters, reiterated charges that the state prosecutor’s office was ignoring concrete leads in the Juarez Valley and other cases pointing to human trafficking and the collusion of government officials.
The March for Life got underway amid renewed public attention on the gender violence issue in Chihuahua state. Last week, a group of international forensic experts hosted by the Chihuahua state government reportedly arrived in Ciudad Juarez to probe one of the emblematic femicide cases, the 2001 cotton field murder case that resulted in the Inter-American Court on Human Rights’ landmark 2009 decision which held the Mexican state responsible for violent crimes against women and ordered a series of actions the government must comply with as a signatory to the Inter-American Court.
In this context, Chihuahua Gov. Duarte assured the public that new measures undertaken by his administration would allow the “speeding up of mechanisms to find disappeared persons and give their families definitive advances.”
According to the Chihuahua special prosecutor for women’s crimes, state legal authorities are investigating 120 cases of disappeared women in Ciudad Juarez alone since 1993. Chihuahua state police are escorting the Walk for Life on the highway between Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua City, but marchers declined an offer of motor transportation from Special Prosecutor Ernesto Refugio Jauregui.
The Walk for Life has drawn the support of other organizations including the 132 youth activist group, the Women’s Roundtable of Ciudad Juarez, El Barzon and the Resisste teachers’ movement. As the march approached Chihuahua City it was joined by relatives of missing men and women from different regions of Chihuahua, including family members of Nitza Paola Alvarado Espinoza, whose forced disappearance is blamed on soldiers.
The marchers were expected to arrive in Chihuahua City sometime during the weekend of January 19-20. Ciudad Juarez mother and activist Karla Castaneda said the Walk for Life could move on to Mexico City to press for a meeting with President Enrique Pena Nieto if satisfactory responses aren’t forthcoming from Governor Duarte’s administration.
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