LatinaLista — These days, the Mexican border town across from El Paso, Texas, Juarez is under siege by drug cartels. Every week, there are reports of new murders.
Yet, with these murders, at least it is known they are being committed by the drug cartels in their wrestle for dominance in the region, but there are still 450 murders of young women for whom no direct tie can be established.
From corrupted police officials to drug cartels to Satanic cults, since 1993 young girls in Juarez have disappeared either to never have been heard from again or to turn up murdered in such grisly fashion that it makes a normal person wonder why the Mexican government hasn't shown the proper concern in tracking down these killers who have made it a sport to prey on young girls.
The investigation, or lack of, into the killings of these girls and the ensuing treatment of the families by the local and state authorities has consistently exhibited signs of abuse, mistreatment, false accusations and generally purposeful ineptness that the real killers will never be brought to justice.
Theories as to why can only lead the rational to assume that the killers are being protected because of their public positions and/or the power they wield in the city.
However, the mothers of these dead girls and women who are outraged that the Mexican government is willing to let these murderers get away with murder, regardless of who they are, have been speaking out — and their voices are getting stronger.
One of the most absurd cases to result from these 450 murders is the case of 19-year old Neyra Cervantes disappeared on her way home from school five years ago.
Neyra's family was one of the lucky ones, if you can call it that, because Neyra's body had been found. Yet, as extended family members made their way to Juarez to bury Neyra, the police suddenly decided that one of Neyra's cousin was her killer.
They took David Meza into custody and tortured him until he confessed to the killing. Neyra's mother, Paty Cervantes, was outraged and traveled extensively to declare that her nephew was innocent — he had been 1500 miles away at the time of Neyra's murder.
It was during this time that I met Paty. She had come to speak as part of a panel to a Hispanic journalist conference. I was struck that this simple woman who had never traveled outside Mexico before was becoming a seasoned traveler and speaker because of this tragedy in her life — but she had to do it she told me. Otherwise, who would tell the world about her nephew and her daughter?
Because of Paty, an international campaign evolved to get her nephew out of jail. After languishing for 3 years, with no evidence tying him to the crime, David was finally released. The video Dual Injustice which tells the story of Neyra and David is credited with forcing the authorities to release David in June 2006 — but still no word on who killed Neyra.
But Paty and the other mothers and women who live in Juarez and want to see justice done for these girls are not giving up hope. In fact, Paty said that she knew the only way to get help was to travel outside Juarez, though she didn't like to leave her family behind, and talk in front of large groups.
Also, since no one really pays them much, if anything, to speak, at the time Paty was compensating her expenses by selling scarves that she and the other women had made to sell to earn a little money while they concentrated their efforts on finding the killers of their daughters.
Paty pleaded with the journalists at that conference not to forget her daughter and the other girls or that the level of corruption that exists in Mexico stymies any progress that could be made on these cases.
Yet, what can we, on this side of the border, do for families who must continually live with such sorrow and unresolved anguish?
Well, an ongoing campaign to force the Mexican government to get serious about solving these crimes is being renewed.
At the Stop Feminicide web site, you can add your name to a petition asking Mexican President Felipe Calderon to apply renewed efforts into solving Neyra's case, along with, the other murders and to hold David's torturers accountable for their actions.
From David's release from prison, it's obvious that international pressure works in getting results.
Perhaps the next step is not to just sign and send a petition but to encourage Congress to attach an amendment to the current financial aid package that is to help Mexico with their drug enforcement efforts.
Known as the MÃ©rida Initiative, Congress has already decided to attach some human rights conditions before Mexico can receive the full amount of aid. One of those conditions is to root out corruption.
Another condition, that can go hand-in-hand with that one, is to publicly name and bring to justice the killers of these young girls.
Because as long as these girls are being killed for nothing more than pleasure and sport, and local officials are unwilling to bring the perpetrators to justice, terror will continue in Juarez and throughout the region because these people know they can get away with murder.