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Officials found at fault in murder probes

Fri., June 4, 2004

MEXICO CITY – At least 81 government officials in Chihuahua state may face charges of negligence and abuse of power involving the murder investigations of women in Ciudad Juarez, federal prosecutors said in a report released Thursday.

For some time, federal officials had pointed to malfeasance and corruption as factors that allowed the slayings to continue since 1993. But the report, from a review of the first 50 cases taken over from state and local police, marks the first time Mexican federal investigators have publicly assailed the work of specific Juarez and Chihuahua police officers and investigators.

“There was notorious inactivity and negligence . . . that led to the loss of evidence and the inadequate protection of crime scenes,” federal prosecutor Maria Lopez Urbina said before a crowd of about 1,000 government officials, relatives of Juarez victims and reporters who gathered Thursday at Los Pinos, the Mexican president’s official residence in Mexico City.

“The forensic results were riddled with grave problems of validity and trustworthiness,” she said.

The public officials, some of whom still work for the state government, were not named. However, federal officials said they will be investigated and their files handed over to Chihuahua prosecutors for possible criminal or administrative sanctions.

Among those suspected of at least shoddy police work are 24 officers, 17 forensics specialists, 30 state investigators and three investigative supervisors.

Since 1993, at least 304 women have been murdered in Juarez, 94 of them bearing similar evidence of torture, rape and mutilation, and many of the 94 having been buried in remote locations outside of Juarez.

To a vocal group of mothers and other relatives of Juarez victims, Thursday’s unveiling of an interim report delivered only partial satisfaction.

“I want fewer words and more results,” said Ramona Rivera.

In 1994, her 16-year-old daughter, Silvia Elena, disappeared. Her body was found buried in a shallow grave, a murder that remains unsolved.

“It has been 10 years of struggle with the authorities, instead of them helping us,” Rivera said as she listened to the series of speeches Thursday. “We have some good work and some results now, but there is still no justice for Silvia.”


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