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Recent killings of women in Juárez spark protests, dispute over gender-based violence

The women are among a growing number of victims brutally murdered as Ciudad Juárez copes with a wave of violence. At least 67 people have been murdered this month, including 11 women. 

By Angela Kocherga, KTEP

The current wave of murders in Juárez includes four women whose bodies were dumped on public roads in garbage bags. Two of the women may have lived in El Paso.

Their dismembered bodies were discovered on the Juárez-Porvenir Highway on the outskirts of Ciudad Juárez Sunday according to the Chihuahua State Attorney General’s office.  

News reports and social media posts initially said two of the slain women were El Pasoans identified as Nohemi Medina Martinez and Yuliza Ramirez, a same-sex married couple with three children, though government officials say they lived on the Mexican side of the border.

A spokesman for the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office said the investigators were “following the protocol” to identify the women, but confirmed that they were a couple who lived in Juárez but also had relatives in El Paso and likely went back and forth.  

A spokesperson with the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juárez said the consulate is in touch with Mexican authorities “and at this point we have no evidence that they were U.S. citizens.”

A statement issued by the Attorney General's Office identified the women using initials for their last names as Nohemi M.M. and Tania M.H., both 28 years old with addresses in Ciudad Juárez.

Chihuahua Attorney General Javier Fierro Duarte on Wednesday said the women were not targeted because of their gender.  “Justice is equal for all,” Fierro Duarte said in Spanish. “We’re very advanced in our investigation, there are diverse lines of investigation but this is not a hate crime.”

He said a multidisciplinary group investigating the case includes the unit “specialized in the homicide of women based on gender.”

Organizations with a long history of defending women and LGBTQ groups are not convinced and protested outside the Chihuahua Attorney General’s office in Juárez Thursday to demand justice. 

“I thought it was important as a queer person and someone that lives in the borderlands to show my support and denounce these femicides,” said Camilo, an El Paso resident who declined to provide a last name and uses they/them pronouns. 

“Even though they are an epidemic and so common. It’s important that they don’t become a normalcy,” they said.  

Mexico’s federal government is also urging state and local authorities to carry out a full investigation using the national protocol for cases where victims were targeted because of gender or sexual orientation.

Mexico’s  National Commission to eradicate Violence against Women and Mexico’s  National Council to Prevent Discrimination issued a  statementthis week calling on authorities in Chihuahua and Juárez to hold accountable those responsible for the “reprehensible murders of two lesbian women in Ciudad Juárez…”

The women are among a growing number of victims brutally murdered as Ciudad Juárez copes with a wave of violence. At least 67 people have been murdered this month, including 11 women. 

Tuesday, two other women in Juárez shot and left for dead in garbage bags were found on a road on the southeastern edge of the city. One woman was clinging to life when police arrived but later died at the hospital according to officials.  In total, four women were found in garbage bags strewed along public roads within 48 hours.

The murders have sparked outrage and a demand for justice in a city notorious for “femicides” dating back decades that attracted international attention.  

The murders are also a test of an alert system created in August in Juárez to signal that a victim’s gender is likely a factor in a crime. Mexico has a federal law granting women a right to a “life free of violence.”

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-El Paso) on Friday in a  tweet said she spoke with the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico regarding the killings "I expressed how this violence hurts women and families across the borderland and adds to our sister city's horrific and tragic history of femicides" Escobar said.

Veronica Martinez of La Verdad contributed to this story as part of the Puente News Collaboarative.