By Lourdes Godínez Leal
OVER THE PAST 15 YEARS, SOME 400 women have been murdered, and hundreds more have disappeared in Ciudad Juárez, the Mexican city that borders El Paso. The victims, most of them teenagers, have typically been abducted, raped, strangled, and left in empty city lots, often on their way home from work. Although the authorities have arrested and convicted a number of perpetrators—by the end of 2006 at least 160 were serving prison sentences—the killings have continued at the same pace. To date, law enforcement has not seriously investigated the serial nature of the killings, and the motivation for them remains a mystery. These crimes, together with official indifference, have given rise to a new term in Mexico: femicide, the systematic murder of women.
Neither the end of the PAN’s political dominance in the state of Chihuahua in 1998 nor the end of the PRl’s decades of autocratic rule at the federal level in 2000 have had any effect on the official indifference to the killings. The impunity for violence against women that has prevailed for so long in Chihuahua has been maintained by officials of various parties. Even though the state attorney general’s office recently acknowledged that at least 364 women were murdered in the city between 1993 and 2005—and research has shown that this kind of anti-woman violence occurs elsewhere in the country—the problem of femicide has never taken its rightful place as a national electoral issue. Throughout the 1990s, Juárez was Mexico’s fastest-growing center of industrial production. Combating impunity and femicide in Ciudad Juarez